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Germany: Even in two-income households, women who work full time are still doing considerably more housework than their male counterparts - and hardly any changes are in sight

Press Release of March 7, 2016

SOEP special analysis for International Women's Day (March 8) reveals that the gender-based division of household labor persists – DIW Research Director Elke Holst calls for stronger, fairer division of unpaid work in the household among couples – a family working-time benefits model (Familienarbeitszeit) and daycare expansion would also support this development

On average, women in dual-income households in Germany are doing more housework and spending more time on childcare than their partners are—even if the woman is working full time. This is the result of a recent study conducted by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) to mark International Women's Day on March 8.

About the SOEP

The Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) is a multi-cohort survey that has been active since 1984. For this study, which is conducted by DIW Berlin under the umbrella of the Leibniz Association, roughly 30,000 people in 15,000 German households are surveyed by TNS Infratest Sozialforschung (Munich) through personal interviews. Survey topics include, among others, personal preferences, political views, income, employment, education, and health. Because the same people are interviewed every year, long-term psychological, economic, societal, and social developments can be tracked.

Using data from the long-term Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) study, DIW Gender Studies Research Director Elke Holst found that although there has been a slight decline in gender-based divisions for housework and childcare, women are still doing significantly more than their partners are. In 2014 full-time working women in two-income households were spending around 1.5 hours on household work, and roughly five hours caring for children every day; their male counterparts, however, spent only an hour and roughly two-and-a-half hours on these tasks, respectively. Women are therefore spending roughly three hours more on housework and childcare per workday than men are.

“Additional, unpaid work limits time sovereignty, and thus flexibility – and that’s a disadvantage on the labor market that affects women in particular,” explains Holst.  

More men are taking part in housework and childcare today than ten years ago

In 2014, 98 percent of all working women in dual-income households – whether they were employed full time or part time – did some sort of housework on weekdays. Meanwhile, 65 percent of their male counterparts did so, a share six percentage points higher than it was a decade earlier. Their contribution of roughly one hour per day did not change over time, and was still well below that among women (roughly two hours per day). If the couple had children under six years old, nearly all men and women were involved in childcare. However, there were differences in the amount of time they devote to such duties: while in 2014 working women engaged in childcare nearly six-and-a-half hours per day, men only did it two-and-a-half hours per day – hardly an increase over 2004. And although there has been an overall reduction in the number of hours women spend on childcare, by roughly one-and-a-half-hours a day, “the decrease in women’s childcare contributions in terms of hours has less to do with help from their male counterparts but more with the expansion of daycare in 2010,” says Holst.

When the average overall number of hours spent on work, household duties, and childcare are examined, women are more heavily burdened than men are: although women work an average of two-and-a-half hours less than do men, they are contributing roughly four-and-a-half more hours to household work and childcare duties. Holst emphasizes that: “If we expect to further reduce gender inequality in the labor market, there’s no way around it: men and women need to more evenly split all household and childcare responsibilities. DIW’s proposals for family working-time benefits, as well as the development of good-quality daycare capacities, are steps in the right direction.”