Where do we close the gender gap in time use? – Gender and society

Where do we close the gender gap in time use?  - Gender and society
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Man-yee Kan and Muzhi Zhou

Do women and men spend time equally? The answer is clear No. Worldwide, women work more unpaid domestic work than men, and men spend more time on paid work. Over the years, gender differences have changed little over time. The promotion of gender equality has lost momentum due to the use of this time as a political agenda.

However, other changes have taken place. In most industrial societies, the percentage of women with tertiary education exceeded the percentage of men. Mothers with children will no longer be welcome at home. Women still do most of the housework, but does that mean they work longer than men when paid and unpaid housework is taken into account?

We know more about the use of time in Western than in East Asian societies. In these East Asian societies, gender inequality is sometimes thought to be greater due to the prevalence of traditional family ties and men working long hours. We wanted to know if that was the case. We wanted to find out whether the patterns and trends in the use of time by gender in East Asian societies are very different from those in Europe and English.

In our recent article Gender and society, we aim to answer these questions using blog data from Western industrial societies and East Asian societies: Beijing, China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. And we looked at the data for the last three decades.

There are both differences and similarities between the societies of West and East Asia. There is ample evidence that progress in West and East Asian societies has stalled. In Japan, Korea and southern Europe in particular, the gender gap in paid work and domestic work is wide. The trend to reduce these gender gaps has been very slow in Japan and Korea, and has stalled in southern European countries. In Beijing, Taiwan and countries such as the US and the UK, the gender gap in paid and unpaid working time is relatively small and has not narrowed over the last decade. However, in both East Asian and Western societies, women have longer total working hours than men.

Our findings show that policies that depend on family ties and expectations that women provide free care are an obstacle to achieving gender equality. The implications of our study are that we need to be more proactive in developing policies to combat the social norms that make women responsible for domestic and caring responsibilities, as these norms hinder the achievement of gender equality in the division of labor at work and at home.

Man-yee Kan is an associate professor of sociology at Oxford University. Her research interests include gender inequality in the family and the labor market, time use research, ethnicity and migration. She has been awarded a European Research Council Consolidated Fellowship (2018-2024) for the GenTime project, which explores gender inequalities in the use of time in East Asian and Western societies.

Muzhi Zhou is a doctoral student at Oxford University and an associate professor of urban management and design at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Guangzhou). It explores how important life events, such as marriage or childbirth, change people’s lives in Europe and East Asia, family formation patterns, and how children spend time and its consequences.

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