Discussion Paper no. 01-5


Seeking to define families as groups of people who share earning and caring activities, we contrast theoretical orientations that see advantages to a division of labour or complementary roles, in comparison to orientations that see less risk and greater companionship in a collaborative model based on sharing paid and unpaid work, or co-providing and co-parenting.

It is important to look both inside and outside of families, or at the changing gendered links between earning and caring, to understand change both in families and in the work world. It is proposed that equal opportunity by gender has advanced further in the public sphere associated with education and work, than in the private family sphere associated with everyday life. Time use data indicate that, on average, men carry their weight in terms of total productive time (paid plus unpaid work), but that women make much more of the accommodations between family and work. Fertility is likely to be lowest in societies that offer women equal opportunity in the public sphere but where families remain traditional in terms of the division of work. Policies are discussed that would reduce the dependency between spouses, and encourage a greater common ground between men and women in earning and caring.