Économie et Statistique n° 478-479-480 - 2015Social and fiscal measures for families - Link between diploma and professional integration - Dossier: Time Use survey
Domestic work: do one-worker couples really do more?
According to traditional quality-of-life measures, two couples with the same income are presumed to have the same quality of life, whether the two people each have paid work or only one person works while the other stays at home. However, in one-worker couples, the partner that stays at home can take on certain services (childcare, shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc.) that the two-worker couple would have to pay for or not do. This study aims to quantify the extra household work performed by one-worker couples compared to two-worker couples based on data from the 2009-2010 Time Use survey. This extra daily work represents on average 2 hours and 5 minutes, based on a restrictive definition of household tasks. This difference is even greater if children are present. However, one-worker households have different characteristics from two-worker households: in particular, they have more children, especially young children, which is associated with an increase in house-keeping work. We show with the help of a Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition that, controlling for these characteristics, one-worker households spend 1 hour and 13 minutes more on household labour compared to their two-worker counterparts. The 2 hours and 5 minutes observed before correction must be compared to the 4 hours 30 minutes made available each day by being unemployed. The difference corresponds primarily to leisure time (1 hour and 15 minutes), time spent on personal care (41 minutes) and “extended” house-keeping work (24 minutes). We also show that one-worker households, all else being equal, resort to paid help for household tasks 3 times less often. The decision to either “do”, “have done” or “not do” therefore seems to lean towards “do” for one-worker couples. All of these observations vary depending on the social situation of the couple, however.