Discussion Paper no. 08-02


Families may be defined as people who share resources and care for each other. These earning and caring activities have undergone change, especially in terms of the de-linking of gender to their division in families. After considering the basis of change in families, in the economy and in models of earning and caring, this paper updates the average hours of paid and unpaid work of women and men, based on the time use surveys of 1986, 1992, 1998 and 2005. The focus is on gender as well as marital, parental and employment status over the life course. Total productive activity, increases for both men and women over the categories of “unmarried no children” to “married no children” to married parent.” We also identify five models of the division of work: complementary-traditional, complementary-gender reversed, women’s double burden, men’s double burden, and collaborative (or shared roles). While the complementary-traditional model is declining, it still represents a third of couples. Women’s double burden is the second largest category, representing 27% of couples in 2005, with men’s double burden representing another 11%. The shared roles account for about a quarter of couples. We propose that equal opportunities in the broader society are relevant to this change, as is social policy and the aspirations for relationships based on mutuality and sharing rather than complementary roles. Besides the push for equality of opportunity in access to education and work, there has been push for change at work in the direction of work-life balance, and change in men’s involvement in housework and child care.