New Man Fails to Make It into the Nineties; Social Trends: Women Still Do Most Housework

Article excerpt

NICHOLAS TIMMINS

Public Policy Editor

The New Man of the 1980s has failed to make it into the 1990s. Among couples, eight out of ten women still always or usually do the washing or ironing. Only 35 per cent of men share the job of deciding what to have for dinner and while men and women share shopping more equally, it is still men who are overwhelmingly likely to do the repairs around the home.

More people are taking two holidays a year and more are going abroad. They are spending longer on education, becoming better qualified, retiring or having to give up work earlier. Spending on food and tobacco as a proportion of household expenditure is falling, but housing and transport are taking a larger slice of household budgets, the Social Trends analysis of lifestyle and expenditure reveals.

Women spend eight hours more per week on housework, cooking and shopping even when they are working full-time - and as a result men in full-time work tend to have two hours' more free time at weekends than their working partners. But some things change: the proportion of women doing home improvements in their free time rose to 30 per cent.

And while men remain more likely than women to take part in sport or other physical activity, the gap between the genders has narrowed. In 1993-94, 57 per cent of women took part in at least one activity in the four weeks preceding a survey, against 72 per cent of men.

Walking is the most popular activity for both sexes, but men were four times more likely to play golf, snooker, pool or billiards than women, while higher proportions of women than men went swimming or attended keep- fit classes.

At home, watching television remains overwhelmingly the favourite leisure time activity, with people spending an average 19 hours a week in front of the television or listening to the radio, compared with five hours visiting friends, three reading, and two playing games or hobbies or computing. …