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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Housework in Canada : uneven convergence of the gender gap in domestic tasks, 1986-2010 Kolpashnikova, Kamila


Housework is one of the last bastions of gender inequality. The persistence of the cultural association of housework with “women's work” and its significance in reflecting societal power differentials between women and men makes research on the division of household labour important. My work explores the division of domestic work in Canada, paying special attention to changes over time and to the economic and cultural explanations of women’s and men’s differential participation in routine and non-routine domestic tasks. First, I decompose the gender gap in time allotted to housework tasks using five time use cycles of the Canadian General Social Survey. Then, using OLS regression with the Heckman correction, I investigate whether and to what extent economic or cultural factors play a role in the division of individual domestic tasks. The gender gap analysis shows that tasks, like shopping, which is culturally understood as a more gender-neutral activity, are best explained by the time availability framework, whereas the economic factors, in general, can explain a sizeable share of the participation in tasks traditionally associated with women such as household cleaning. For instance, the latter account for around 39% of the gender gap in time spent on cleaning among all married and cohabiting Canadians. However, the economic and gender-centred factors are least likely to explain the gender gap in tasks where there is a clear cultural change in attitudes and participation. For example, they can explain only 31% of the gender gap in cooking. Additionally, the findings suggest that pressures for breadwinning Canadian women to compensate for gender deviance in paid work are more severe than those faced by men. Thus breadwinning women continue to reproduce traditional gender patterns in cooking, cleaning, and shopping tasks. On the other hand, Canadian men perform a new behavioural pattern in cooking tasks: breadwinning men break traditional gender patterns and spend more time on cooking than can be predicted by economic exchange theory. In total these patterns reveal the processes through which cultural changes around a domestic task propel the changes toward gender equality in the division of housework.

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