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Lockdown saw couples share housework and childcare more evenly – but these changes didn’t last

Writer : Susan Harkness, Professor of Public Coverage and Director of the Centre for Poverty and Social Justice, College of Bristol

It could really feel like a standard incidence right now, however should you forged your thoughts again to the primary COVID lockdown, having complete households working and learning from house was a really unfamiliar state of affairs. And it was one which had unfamiliar penalties.

For opposite-sex {couples}, lockdown disrupted the normal gender division of family chores. In analysis that my colleagues and I carried out, we discovered that having each companions at house noticed males improve how a lot of the home burden they took on, so that girls’s usually better share decreased.

We found this by analysing information from Understanding Society, an enormous longitudinal family panel examine – the most important of its sort. The examine follows a pattern of UK households, periodically asking them inquiries to see how their lives are altering. Between April 2020 and September 2021, its individuals had been requested to finish internet surveys each few months particularly concerning the affect of the pandemic on their lives.

We checked out responses from folks of working age who had been in opposite-gender relationships that continued all through this era of COVID surveying. This offered a ultimate pattern of simply over 2,000 {couples} for us to analyse. Right here’s what we found.

Lockdown shocks

The {couples} had been requested concerning the gender division of house responsibilities throughout the first lockdown, and we then in contrast this with info collected from pre-lockdown surveys carried out throughout 2019. The {couples} had been additionally requested whether or not these adjustments persevered when the primary lockdown eased. On high of this, we additionally in contrast the adjustments skilled by these with no kids at house and people with kids of varied ages.

What we noticed was that total, ladies’s share of house responsibilities fell from 65% pre-COVID to 60% throughout the first lockdown. So initially there was a reasonable quantity of gender rebalancing within the sharing of home work. Nonetheless, by September 2020 the outdated gender divisions had been being re-established. By this level, ladies had been on common doing 62% of house responsibilities.

These adjustments coincided with adjustments in working behaviour. Total, the findings confirmed that each males’s and ladies’s paid working hours decreased considerably within the spring of 2020 however had recovered by September.

A woman vacuuming a rug
Regardless of some rebalancing, on common a sizeable majority of the home burden nonetheless fell on ladies.
Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

And throughout the spring lockdown, round a 3rd of each female and male respondents had been employed however working from house. Nonetheless, this had fallen to simply below 1 / 4 by September. Equally, round one in 5 ladies and one in seven males had been furloughed within the spring, however this had dropped to fewer than one in 20 by September.

This appears to counsel that having each members of a pair at house, with much less time dedicated to work, results in the home burden being extra evenly shared.

Having each relations spending extra time at house additionally seems to have led to there being extra house responsibilities to be performed. Each women and men elevated their weekly hours of home work throughout lockdown – from 12.5 to 15.5 for girls and from 6.5 to 10 for males. Come September 2020, these figures had fallen once more, although they remained above their pre-lockdown ranges.

Childcare burdens

Nonetheless, the rebalancing of labor wasn’t constant throughout the {couples} we checked out. The extent of the change relied on the quantity and age of the couple’s kids.

When the respondents had been cut up into three teams – those that had no kids residing at house, those that had kids below the age of 5 and those that had older kids – marked variations emerged.

For {couples} with out kids at house, ladies’s share of home labour fell throughout the spring and continued to fall after the summer season. Although these ladies nonetheless did extra home work than their companions, their enter didn’t return to pre-COVID ranges as 2020 progressed.

For these with kids aged between six and 15, the drop in ladies’s share of house responsibilities had partially reversed by September, nevertheless it hadn’t absolutely bounced again. Within the autumn they had been nonetheless doing lower than earlier than the pandemic.

However for these with kids below 5, the drop in ladies’s share of house responsibilities had reversed fully by September. This was regardless of the preliminary drop within the spring having been better for this group in comparison with the opposite two.

Household dynamics

So what can we make of this? When it comes to household dynamics, the lockdown might have had extra lasting results for some households than for others. Fears that advances in gender equality might be reversed throughout the pandemic had been extra actual for these with very younger kids, who had been a lot much less capable of preserve themselves busy with different duties and whose kids weren’t sufficiently old to utilize on-line training.

One necessary motive for the division of labour altering throughout lockdown was males’s and ladies’s working hours. Ladies with younger kids tended to scale back their paid working hours extra because the pandemic progressed with the intention to tackle the elevated burden of care that stemmed from faculties and nurseries being closed.

A grandfather and grandson walking outside
Having household help close by can have influenced how a lot childcare and house responsibilities {couples} did.
Monkey Enterprise Photographs/Shutterstock

Our examine exhibits that adjustments to household life throughout the pandemic had been nuanced, with totally different household set-ups leading to totally different adjustments to the stability of house responsibilities and the rebalancing of labor altering over time. Certainly, there could also be additional nuances that we’re but to completely establish.

Sooner or later, it could be good to have a look at whether or not prolonged household networks had been capable of alleviate the elevated care burden for some households. We may additionally take a look at how the pandemic affected the psychological well being of ladies with and with out kids, and it could be helpful to see whether or not totally different international locations’ lockdowns affected households in another way as effectively.


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