nervous breakdown

When I read that men and women in the U.S. spend roughly the same number of hours working on an average week, I couldn’t help but feel envious. At this time of year, when I have to prepare Christmas dinner for 10 people, take my daughter to the pediatrician, drive my son to soccer, and make decisions about closing the year at work, I feel like that’s not the reality that I’m living. After doing some reading, I discovered that there’s more to this story.

You’d be inclined to believe that if both men and women were working the same number of hours that American homes would be a bastion of harmony; however, this isn’t the case, because the type of household tasks that men and women engage in are very different:

  1. Although they work the same number of hours on average, men work more paid hours while women work more unpaid hours.
  2. Women spend more time than men on tasks such as child care.
  3. In American couples where both spouses work full time, the probability of the woman, for example, waking up to get a child under the age of one back to sleep is three times higher than that of the man.
  4. Another study shows that when American women perceive that the time spent on child care is lopsided, they are less happy in their marriages than when inequality is perceived in another task (e.g., hours spent cleaning).

Last year, Clara Alemann wrote a post on this blog about the situation in Scandinavian countries. Fathers have increased the amount of time they spend on child care following a series of legal and labor reforms (paternity leave, joint custody in the event of divorce, workplaces that allow for a good work-life balance, equal pay for men and women, etc.), but mothers still spend more time caring for children.

What is happening in Latin America and the Caribbean?

Recent data on paid and unpaid work in 18 countries shows that, unfortunately, the region is still far from the “equality” that has been achieved in other countries. In fact, in a recent paper, Hugo Ñopo discussed that although in many regards there is a great deal of heterogeneity between countries, 80% of unpaid domestic work in Latin America and the Caribbean is performed by women.

An ECLAC study [link in Spanish] shows that when both men and women are employed, women’s contribution in terms of housework is more than triple that of men, and it’s also higher when neither of the couple is working. We’ve still got a long way to go in this sense. Although some countries such as Chile have made strides forward with progressive measures including maternity and paternity leave, most countries are still grappling with considerable inequality in this regard.

Do you know of any policies in other countries that have proven to be effective? Share them in the comments section below or on Twitter.

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