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August 09, 2010

Do Men Work More Hours Than Women?

According to this article, the answer is "yes":

A study published this week by Dr Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics has found that men do slightly more work than the women they live with when employment and domestic work are measured together.

Note that the exact same study is summarized by Reuters as "Men and women do the same amount of work". Got agenda? Oddly, the article provides no link to the study. Nor did it provide any information other than the general conclusion that men work slightly more hours. Curious about the study's methodology (not to mention the accuracy of this author's summary), I decided to do a little research. What I found was considerably more nuanced than the Telegraph would have us believe:

Who works hardest? Feminists have long complained about women’s ‘double shift’ – a term invented in the United States, and automatically assumed to apply equally in western Europe, despite our shorter work hours and widespread availability of part-time jobs. Indeed, the European Commission actively promotes the idea that women carry an unfair burden, working disproportionately long hours in jobs and at home as well, juggling family and work (1). However time budget studies show that women’s double shift is a myth.

I don't find the claimed debunking of the "double shift" nonsense particularly surprising. It is well documented that men perform the lion's share of difficult and dangerous jobs:

According to the International Labor Organization, an estimated 1.1 million workers are killed in industrial accidents each year, exceeding the number killed from road accidents, war, violence and AIDS.

These accidents occur primarily in mining, logging, heavy agricultural labor, construction, fishing, heavy manufacturing and various other overwhelmingly male jobs. The ILO estimates that some 600,000 lives would be saved every year if available safety practices were used. The ILO also estimates that there are an approximately 250 million occupational accidents and 160 million occupational diseases each year. The ILO doesn't keep figures by gender, but in countries like England, Australia, Canada, and South Africa, where such figures are available, the fatalities and serious injuries are usually over 90 percent male.

The gender breakdowns in the U.S. are little different. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 125 million workplace injuries in the United States between 1976 and 1999. Nearly 100,000 workers died from job-related injuries between 1980 and 1994 with 95 percent of them male. Of the 25 most dangerous jobs listed by the U.S. Department of Labor, all of them are at least 90 percent and are often 100 percent male. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more than three million workers a year are treated in hospital emergency rooms for occupational injuries and nearly 50 American workers are injured every minute of the 40-hour work week. On average, every day 17 die, 16 of them male.

It is also well documented that, whether one looks at lifetime employment statistics or average hours worked per week, men spend more hours than women at work. Again, given that women are far more likely to take time off from work to care for small children or other relatives, this is hardly surprising (and in fact, I think it's a good thing).

What interested me about this study was the odd gap between what the study actually found, what the author of the study claims it proves, and the way the results were reported in the media:

On average, women and men across Europe do the same total number of productive work hours, once paid jobs and unpaid household work are added together – roughly eight hours a day. Men do substantially more hours of paid work. Women’s time is divided more evenly between paid and unpaid work.

Hmmm... and yet both the author and the media claim the study shows that men do more work than women do. Let's read some more:

Men and women do roughly equal amounts of voluntary work – contrary to the popular myth that women do vastly more than men. Results for Britain are repeated in the USA and other countries, despite differences in the length of working weeks and lifestyles. It is only in the poorer nations that women work longer hours overall.

Again, I have no problem with the author's claim that her study refutes the feminist mantra that women work way more hours than men. That's not surprising in light of the number of studies I've cited that show the same thing. I'm just not sure how Hakim gets "men work more hours than women" from "on average, men and women work roughly the same number of hours". Perhaps it's that sophisticated Euro-weenie nuance thing again....

Indeed, in Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands, men actually do more productive work than women.

Mystery solved! Instead of looking at the overall study results, we're going to cherry pick the data! And it turns out that if we only look at British men with children at home, we can add Britain to the list!

The pattern of equality in total productive work hours is found among couples aged 20-40 and those aged 40-60, so is reasonably constant across the lifecycle. In fact, an analysis by Susan Harkness shows that British men work longer hours in total than do women when there are children in the home, largely because men often work more overtime to boost family income at this stage, while wives switch to part-time jobs, or even drop out of employment (Harkness, 2008).

Suddenly, though, an inconvenient truth rears its ugly head:

Couples with no children at home and both in full-time jobs emerge as the only group where women work more hours in total than men, once paid and unpaid work hours are added together.

Oddly enough, when we begin selectively citing data from portions of the sample, a vastly different picture begins to emerge:

Feminists constantly complain that men are not doing their fair share of domestic work. The reality is that most men already do more than their fair share, and this is most pronounced in the ‘gender egalitarian’ cultures of Scandinavia. These conclusions have long been established by Gershuny’s research, and are re-confirmed by the new time budget studies across Europe and North America. The only exceptions are Eastern European countries: under socialist governments, women did more hours in total, as they were forced into full-time jobs, and they continue to work longer hours in a few ex-socialist countries today.

What I'm seeing here is that when women work full time - regardless of whether they do so as a result of socialist political policies or because they are in a two full-time wage earner relationship - they work longer hours than men do overall. When men have small children to provide for, they often work overtime to provide for their families and thus (after helping around the house) work longer hours.

It turns out that the author has a bit of an agenda herself:

... last week Hakim put the female arts of looking appetising firmly onto the academic agenda. In a controversial new paper for a sociological journal, she suggests we may all be missing a trick by not recognising the power of “erotic capital”.

She defines the key elements of erotic capital as “sex appeal, charm and social skills, physical fitness and liveliness, sexual competence and skills in self-presentation”. She claims that men and women with erotic capital can expect to earn 10% to 15% more than those without.

In more down-to-earth terms, what she’s talking about is anything from an ability to flirt subtly with the boss to the commercial exploitation of a large pair of breasts.

In Hakim’s world, a female historian is in no way devalued if she chooses to strip off in order to publicise her book. Nor is there anything wrong with being a gold-digger.

“We live in a sexualised age: that’s the trend. Let’s just relax ... There’s not much point in swimming against the tide,” she says.

Hakim's "preference theory" (the idea that women's choices reflect women's values rather than the influence of jackbooted patriarchal oppression) makes perfect sense to me, which probably explains why I've been saying the same thing for the past 6 years. The claim that, when all things are considered, men pull their weight in most relationships is likewise reasonable.

What doesn't make so much sense to me is how she gets "men are doing more than their fair share" from "men and women work roughly equal hours once paid and unpaid work are accounted for"? At any rate, do read the entire study.

Given the well documented tendency of both men and women to respond to survey questions in socially desirable ways, I've always viewed studies that don't control for self reporting bias with a certain amount of skepticism. When the author herself claims that her purpose is to force the Nanny State to "compensate" people for cleaning their own houses and caring for their own children, my BS meter goes off big-time. This was a loony idea when feminists first suggested it, and I'm not any more inclined to support it when its suggested by a purported anti-feminist.

The state has no duty to compensate anyone - male or female - for supporting their own families. To the extent that any man or women provides value to third parties, it makes sense for those third parties to compensate these workers. That condition is not satisfied when private citizens - be they male or female - do housework for themselves, shop for groceries, or bathe Junior.

I suppose we can all count it as a Great Leap Forward that these days, Dad is just as stressed as Mom. Everyone's a victim these days.

Oops! Nearly forgot - thanks to FuzzyB for the Telegraph link.

Posted by Cassandra at August 9, 2010 08:39 AM

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Women tend to value a social life. But men can devote themselves to work and money, and not have a social life at all. It won't hurt them until they are like in their 30s and get lonely.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 9, 2010 09:42 AM

I agree that in a perfect world, people would value volunteer work more than they do. I just can't get to this author's idea that we ought to be forced to value - or compensate - what should be a labor of love.

I look forward to seeing this study widely quoted by any number of folks who don't bother to look at it too closely :p The Internet is an amusing place some weeks!

Posted by: Cassandra at August 9, 2010 09:57 AM

"I just can't get to this author's idea that we ought to be forced to value - or compensate - what should be a labor of love."

Some people just like to see a world made equally miserable. Well, except for themselves. They would get special dispensation for being so graceful and compassionate.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 9, 2010 10:09 AM

Cherry-picking data seems to be a time-honored tradition in these sorts of studies. On the one hand, it's interesting to see a study arrive at the conclusion this one did, but on the other hand, it really just reaffirms what we all take as common sense: in general, relationships don't last if one partner is putting in a lot more life-maintenance effort than the other.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at August 9, 2010 11:10 AM

FWIW, I checked the American Time Use Survey and it does seem to come to roughly the same conclusions.

When I think of my own marriage, there have been times when my spouse put in far more hours at work and times when I did. When our kids were small, he did little or nothing around the house (including yard work, which I did) and didn't often help care for the kids.

This was fine with me b/c I considered that my job, even though I worked 7 days a week and he worked 5. I didn't have to go to the field, or face many of the hardships he did so the arrangement always seemed equitable to me.

As I began to work more paid hours, he started helping more around the house. I've always thought of marriage as a negotiation process. At least that's the way it worked out for me.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 9, 2010 11:37 AM

Does it really matter which gender as a whole compiles the greatest number of hours? It only matters in each relationship that each partner feels like the other is pulling their fair share. I don't care if John and Martha have a huge disparity in the hours worked. That's their problem, and they can fix it however they want to. However, if my spouse feels like I'm not doing my share, then her and I have a problem. No one else. And we will work it out between us.
All this about "men" and "women" is just utter nonsense. It's all about individuals, not collectives, unless you're a Borg.

Posted by: Jim Armstrong at August 9, 2010 12:29 PM

I can't disagree with you there, Jim :)

That's part of the reason I linked the study - I've grown alarmed at the ramped up hostility between the sexes these days, especially online. Everything is presented as some kind of zero sum game and given the differing priorities men and women have, that seems pretty dumb (not to mention destructive).

I think a lot of people have an axe to grind and are looking for reasons to be angry. Studies like this don't help much. I can't help thinking we'd all be a lot happier if more people would take responsibility for their own happiness :p

Posted by: Cassandra at August 9, 2010 12:34 PM

I think a lot of people have an axe to grind and are looking for reasons to be angry.

I'm *happy* when I'm grinding my axe. And my hatchet. And my machete. A sharp blade means less chance I'll cut myself.

And *that* would make me angry...

Posted by: BillT at August 9, 2010 01:10 PM

Obama, not the borg.

I've grown alarmed at the ramped up hostility between the sexes these days, especially online.

It can't be a bad thing to give divorce lawyers more money, right.

are looking for reasons to be angry

I think political factions have used billions to setup such class, sex, and race warfare conditions via ramping up hostility.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 9, 2010 01:39 PM

Of course Men work more than Women. To keep us menfolk happy all you ladyfolk have to do is flip a switch. On the other hand, to keep you wemenfolk happy, we have to master all sorts of knobs, dials and switches.

Take a look at THIS, and don't tell me that we have to work harder to keep-up ;->

Posted by: Boquisucio at August 9, 2010 01:50 PM

Women: we're complicated :p

Posted by: Cassandra at August 9, 2010 01:56 PM

Sorry, Boq, gonna haf'ta call BS on that pic.....there aren't any buttons, knobs or dials for beer, food, football or cars on the top section.

Posted by: DL Sly at August 9, 2010 03:54 PM

The top half is more like a bunch of slider switches. Where by switching one thing all the way up, everything else goes down into the Off position.

The bottom would be a nuclear critical reactor, where you got to balance all kinds and things and if the coolant or something else goes offline, the reactor will really go critical.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 9, 2010 04:00 PM

People who see relationships as zero-sum games have already lost.

...the reactor will really go critical, and need to be repaired with flowers.

Posted by: htom at August 9, 2010 04:33 PM

Hey Sly, the same switch goes to the reptilian pea-brain of ours.

BTW have you ever been so silly as to think out loud:"I wonder what that button is for"?

I for one won't make that mistake again.

Posted by: Boquisucio at August 9, 2010 06:40 PM

BTW have you ever been so silly as to think out loud:'I wonder what that button is for'?"

Since you asked, yes I *have*....

Posted by: DL Sly at August 9, 2010 08:08 PM

Are you kidding? I'm married to a guy who can't keep from pushing the buttons ... all of them :)

Posted by: Cassandra at August 9, 2010 10:11 PM

I'm happy to report that this is yet another profile that doesn't apply to me; here in the Military-Industrial Complex™ (on 3rd shift) I only work 6.5 hours/day...

Posted by: camojack at August 10, 2010 01:19 AM

He has to do the tall stuff; I have to talk to the IRS.

For THREE HOURS the other day.

Posted by: Texan99 at August 10, 2010 04:01 PM

Is this work?


Posted by: Ymarsakar at August 11, 2010 08:08 AM