It is a scene that is played out daily in homes across the country: a stressed mother returns from work via the childminder's only to be confronted by a mound of ironing and an indifferent husband.
A new study published today by New Labour think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) reveals that 21st- century women are still expected to take on the majority of household duties, including childcare, while holding down demanding jobs.
Despite the invention of househusbands and the rise of the so- called new man, gender inequality is rife among couples, with many people still believing that a woman's primary role is to stay at home.
The IPPR findings are based on an analysis of data from the National Centre for Social Research as well as research from Mori. The think-tank commissioned the study, Attitudes to Social Justice, to gauge public attitudes towards taxation and identify who people think are deserving of state benefits.
A separate study which will be published later this month will also reveal that there is still a widely held public belief that gender equality does not apply to women's private lives.
Researchers at the University of Bristol have found that nearly two- thirds of women who earn the same or more than their partners are primary childcarer.
In a study backed by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), researchers looked at changes in female employment patterns since the 1970s and found that responsibility for most of the housework and the burden of looking after sick children still falls to mothers, even though three-quarters of all households now have dual incomes.
Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby, who carried out the research for the IPPR, says men must be urged to take an equal share in domestic responsibility, for example through the introduction of compulsory parental leave.
"It's still the situation that women are facing the double burden of combining work with domestic duties as much as they were 20 years ago," said Mr Taylor-Gooby, professor of social policy at the University of Kent.
Despite outdated and sexist attitudes towards women in the home, the majority of people think that women and children should be first in line for government subsidies for childcare and wages.
The IPPR found that 68 per cent of people think ministers should help meet childcare costs and three-quarters think the state should help with the childcare of single mothers with pre-school children.
However, this view does not extend to married mothers who have pre-school age children. …