The household division of labour: Changes in families’ allocation of paid and unpaid work, 1992-2002

Susan Harkness*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

17 Citations (Scopus)


Female employment grew rapidly in the 1990s, and this has accelerated the demise in the numbers of families headed by a male breadwinner. In 2002, three-quarters of married or cohabiting couples, and 56 per cent of those with children under school age, were supported by two-earners. Women in couples where both partners work full-time have always worked long hours, an average 40-hour week in 2002. What has changed over the decade is that there are significantly more of these families. The problem of long family hours of work is most predominant among the highly educated. In 2002 couples where women had some higher education supplied an average of 73 labour market hours a week. In contrast, those with 0-levels or less supplied just 60 labour market hours. This difference is even starker among those with pre-school children. In one-half of families with children at least one parent usually works during the evening, while in one in ten families with pre-school children parents work shifts, with men working during the day and women during the evening or night. In spite of women’s increasing labour market attachment, women still take responsibility for the vast majority of household chores even when they work full-time. The burden of housework is more evenly split where women earn an amount equal to or greater than their partners. These families are also particularly likely to ‘buy back’ time through the purchase of hired help, such as cleaners, and labour saving devices, such as dishwashers.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Labour Market Under New Labour
Subtitle of host publicationThe State of Working Britain 2003
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780230598454
ISBN (Print)9781403916297
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'The household division of labour: Changes in families’ allocation of paid and unpaid work, 1992-2002'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this