Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Non-Standard Employment and Fathers' Time in Household Labour

Academic journal article Journal of Family Studies

Non-Standard Employment and Fathers' Time in Household Labour

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: This paper examines the ways in which non-standard employment conditions of fathers and their partners are associated with the time fathers spend in household labour caring for children and doing housework. The data come from a national telephone survey conducted in 2010 with a unique purposive sample of 3OO fathers who contributed at least 30per cent to the total time spent in household labour. We find that fathers who worked irregular hours, night shifts or took work home on a regular basis spent more time doing housework tasks than fathers without these employment conditions. Further, fathers" whose partners worked weekends, nights or travelled for work did more housework and childcare than fathers" with partners without these work schedules. We conclude that non-standard employment may provide an opportunity for greater shared household labour arrangements.

KEYWORD: fathers, care work, housework, shared care, non-standard employment


Women undertake the bulk of household labour in all western societies (Treas & Drobnic, 2010). Nevertheless, some couples do share time in housework and caring for children more equally than others. The numbers of couples who achieve equality is small, they are relatively invisible, and little is known about their characteristics, or the processes they have followed to achieve equality. Most research focuses on explaining gender inequality in the home using large scale surveys, or understanding the causes and consequences of women's 'double shift' using small scale qualitative studies (Hochschild & Machung, 1989). This paper goes some way toward filling this gap. Specifically, we investigate how non-standard employment conditions, such as shift work, irregular hours, and taking work home, of both fathers and their partners, is associated with the time that fathers spend undertaking routine housework and caring for children. We use data from a purposive sample of 300 Australian men with children under 12 who shared housework and childcare with their partners to investigate the characteristics and employment conditions that increase or decrease the amount of time they spend undertaking these tasks.


Contemporary research into the gender division of household labour has identified two key issues affecting time spent on household labour: economic resources and bargaining; and time availability. Economic resources are usually measured in terms of earnings. The results from a number of studies have found that an increase in women's relative earnings is associated with a decline in women's time on household tasks as a result of role specialisation or exchange bargaining over who has the most power to bargain out of doing housework or childcare (Baxter, 1992; Bittman et al., 2003; Brines, 1994; Greenstein, 2000; Presser, 1994; Ross, 1987). From this perspective, we would expect that non-standard work hours would have little or no impact on the time spent in caring for children or housework because the focus is on economic contributions to the household and the associated power of those economic contributions. Thus we would expect that fathers' income and their income relative to their partner would have the strongest influence on the time they spent in household labour.

In contrast, according to the time availability approach, couples rationally assign tasks to the partner who has more 'time', or alternatively, because one partner does not have the time to do certain tasks the other responds by doing more household labour. Men's hours of paid work have been found to affect men's time on housework with longer hours of paid work leading to less time on housework (Brines, 1994; Ishii-Kuntz & Coltrane, 1992). Interestingly however, most recent research finds that the amount of hours men spend in paid work is not closely related to their time, or their wives time, on housework or childcare (Baxter, 2002). …

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