Discussion Paper no. 01-13


Family models can usefully consider the production and reproduction roles of women and men. For husband-wife families, the breadwinner, one-earner, or complementary-roles model has advantages in terms of efficiency/specialization and stability, but it is a high risk model for women and children in the face of the inability or unwillingness of the breadwinner to provide for (especially former) spouse and children. The alternate model has been called two-earner, companionship, “new families” or collaborative in the sense of spouses collaborating in both the paid and unpaid work needed to provide for and care for the family. When there are children, this can be called the co-provider and co-parenting model.

Adopting the common metric of time-use to study both paid and unpaid work, the Canadian national surveys of 1986, 1992 and 1998 show that the traditional or neo-traditional models remain the most common, and the “double burden” is the second most frequent, but there is some evidence of change in the direction of more symmetric arrangements, especially for younger couples with children, when both are employed full-time. Patterns over the life course clearly indicate that women carry much more of the burden in terms of accommodating the meshing that needs to occur between productive and reproductive activities. Policies that would modernize families are discussed, including those that would reduce dependency in relationships.