NTA2020 Rivero Fuentes

Global Meeting on Population and the Generational Economy, August 2020

Presentation: Estela Rivero Fuentes, Variations in the contribution to housework and care, by individuals’ and households’ life cycle stage


The literature on the care economy and the gender division of labor recognizes, for the most part, that because of gender norms and expectations, women are responsible for the majority of housework and care activities throughout the world. By drawing on theories of gender role socialization, one implication of this work is that these gender inequalities are observed though the life course. It is also assumed that, housework and care activities, belong to the domestic sphere and depend on a household distribution that is mediated by gender norms and power dynamics. Nevertheless, the life course and the household dimensions are generally lacking from empirical studies, which focus either on how housework and care activities are divided among the household head and its spouse, or on broad differences by sex. One excuse on this sense, is the work of Counting Women’s Work (CWW), which has incorporated a life cycle perspective to these studies and shown that women spend more time on housework and care than men at all ages, and that the bulk of this contribution is during their most productive years. Despite these important contributions, however, the household dimension is still missing from CWW. Analyzing the gender distribution of labor taking the households as an axis of analysis is important for at least the following reasons: · The time demands vary by the life stage cycle of the household, the number individuals living in it, and its demographic composition. Hence, the life stage of the household is an important element to consider when analyzing gender inequalities in housework and care. This is partially recognized in the literature about the sandwich generation. · It may help understand how gender roles are transmitted across generations. · The time that individuals allocate to household chores and care activities may depend on how many other individuals are available to contribute to these tasks. This is one of the reasons why the literature on inter-vivo transfers consider how many other individuals are available to also provide work, and how many are actually active carers. However, this has not been extrapolated to other areas of study.· Ignoring how household chores and care are distributed among different household members, not only the head and its spouse can have important policy consequences, as it leads to ignoring time young people’s time demands. These may affect their human capital formation, among other things.

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