Household chores: progress achieved, but gender bias still prevails

Traditionally, men have done little household work, while women managed most of it. I believe that younger generations are more conscious of equality in this area. Recently, my wife and I discussed the fact that she was doing more housework than me. We decided on a plan to address this imbalance, which made me curious about the actual progress in household work equality. Let’s examine some data!

Share of Household Work

In 2010, a survey by the Swedish Bureau of Statistics revealed that women spent significantly more time on various types of household work than men.

The survey covered various time-use aspects and repeated a similar survey from 1990. Comparing the main categories from 1990 to 2010, we see that women are doing more paid work and less unpaid work in 2010 than in 1990. Men are doing less paid work, but only slightly more unpaid work. However, the trend indicates a move towards a more balanced distribution of paid and unpaid work between men and women.

Childcare and Parental Leave

The evolution of parental benefits reflects changing views on gender roles in parenting. Introduced in 1931, childcare benefits in Sweden were initially available only to women. These benefits were based on the assumption that married women did not work, covering only the direct costs of raising a child, not lost family income.

During the 60s and 70s, equality movements advocated for a dual-working parent model, sharing housework and childcare equally. In 1974, Sweden replaced the “moderskapsförsäkring” (motherhood insurance) with “föräldraförsäkring” (parental insurance), making benefits available to both men and women.

Despite this, couples can still divide parental leave unequally. Since introducing benefits for both parents, the share of parental leave taken by fathers has steadily increased, although mothers still take the majority.













The state has attempted to increase fathers’ use of parental leave through various incentives. In the late 70s, a campaign featuring weightlifter Lennart “Hoa-Hoa” Dahlgren encouraged men to take parental leave.

Additionally, the government has restricted the ability of couples to transfer leave days to the mother. In 1995, 30 days (about 6% of the total) became non-transferable, and for parents of children born after 2002, this increased to 60 days (about 12.5%).

While the use of parental leave for infants has evolved, the use of temporary childcare benefits remains unchanged. Swedish parents can take leave for sporadic child-related needs (e.g., a sick child), and this benefit has maintained a 60-40 split between mothers and fathers over the past five decades.

The division of housework and childcare is becoming more balanced between men and women, but true equality has not yet been achieved.

There is still a significant journey ahead before paid and unpaid work is equally shared in most families.


Linus Aarnio

This story originally appeared on DataWrapper and was produced and distributed in partnership with DataPulse.

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