Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Time Constraints and Relative Resources as Determinants of the Sexual Division of Domestic Work

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Time Constraints and Relative Resources as Determinants of the Sexual Division of Domestic Work

Article excerpt

Abstract: Based on data from the 1992 Canadian General Social Survey on time-use, the time spent in housework and in child care are analysed for women and men who are working full-time in dual-earner families. Time demands of the family and time availability are found to be important determinants of time spent in child care for both men and women. However, the relative resources of partners are found to have less predictive power, except that women spend less time in housework if they earn more than half of the family income. There were also important elements of gender asymmetry in the results. In particular, women's time in housework is increased when their husbands spend more time in paid work, but men's time in housework is not significantly affected by the employment time of their wives.

Resume: Nous analysons le temps employe, par les femmes et hommes travaillant a plein temps, pour les travaux domestiques et l'entretien des enfants, a base de donnees de l'Enquete sociale generale 1992. Les contraintes familiales et le temps disponible sont des determinants importants du temps passe a l'entretien des enfants, pour hommes et femmes. Par ailleurs, les ressources relatives ont moins d'impact, sauf que les femmes font moins de travail domestique si elles apportent plus que la moitie du revenu familial. Il y a aussi des differences importantes par sexe; en particulier, le temps des femmes en travail domestique augmente quand leur marl passe plus de temps en travail paye, mais le temps domestique des hommes n'a pas une relations significative avec le temps paye de leur epouse.

The movement of married women into paid work and the consequent rise of the dual-earner family as the modal family form in Canada has had a significant impact on the division of household labour within couples. However, it is generally agreed that this change has affected women more than men, and that women bear the brunt of the "time crunch" arising out of the family-work interface (Hochschild 1989; Kempeneers, 1992). Nonetheless, Shelton (1992) observes that the change in women's paid work is now affecting both women and men.

The search for explanations of the distribution of household labour can usefully be divided between economic and cultural considerations (Brines, 1994), or between "pragmatic strategies" and "patriarchal dynamics" (Haddad, 1996). The economic perspective pays particular attention to the relative amount of income and other resources that spouses may exchange for unpaid work. It also focuses on the practical considerations associated with time availability and the demands on an individual's time. On the other hand, the cultural perspective considers the normative context of housework, and focuses in particular on the relationship between unpaid work and the social construction of gender.

The pragmatic strategy approach is based on questions of specialization and efficiency. Parsons and Bales (1955) argued that a role differentiation based on male specialization in instrumental activities and female specialization in expressive activities permitted a functional allocation of tasks within families. Similarly, Blood and Wolfe (1960) theorize that the sexual division of domestic labour is a function of spouses' relative contributions of resources to the household. The person with more resources would do less domestic work. Becker (1965, 1981) bases his understanding of families on the efficiency that is obtained by spousal specialization in income generation and unpaid work respectively. In effect, these conceptions are based on the view that the key issue is not gender, but rather a pragmatic allocation of tasks.

The patriarchal dynamics approach pays particular attention to the social construction of gender through the division of work and the allocation of unpaid work. Engels (1975) argued that the separation of domestic and economic spheres in the context of the historical development of class society led to the economic disempowerment of women and the evolution of the family as the primary site of women's subordination and exploitation. …

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