At home, men are narrowing the chores gap

They're doing more cooking and cleaning, but still lag behind women


Published: Wednesday, March 05

While Canadian men are more likely to tote laundry or haul around a vacuum cleaner these days, they shouldn't be patting themselves on the back.

In 2006 census data published yesterday, Statistics Canada said men are continuing to do more housework, such as cooking and cleaning, but they still lag behind women.

That doesn't come as a surprise to Jessica Parsons, of St. John's, N.L.

"I was just talking with a friend recently who ... had broken her ankle in November and she wasn't able to stand on it or do a whole lot around the house, and her husband wasn't really picking up the slack. So she'd be sitting there thinking, 'Oh my God, there's dishes to be done and dog fur everywhere,' but to him it wasn't that big of a deal," Parsons said.

More and more, cleanliness is becoming a joint job around the house. Statistics Canada's figures show between 1996 and 2006, the share of men pitching in at home increased nationally by 3.5 percentage points to 87.9 per cent, from 84.4 per cent.

Still, more women - almost 93 per cent in 2006 - reported doing housework, about the same rate as in 1996. And when it came to hours spent at housework, the gap is bigger yet. Almost 20 per cent of women spent 30 or more hours taking care of the home in 2006, compared to about eight per cent of men.

Toronto couples therapist Karen Hirscheimer says the narrowing gap shows men are becoming more comfortable doing housework and women are doing a better job of requiring them to, and that's important for a healthy marriage.

"In order for the relationship to work, it has to feel fair. Does that mean the household chores need to be divided up equally? That depends on the two people in the marriage," she said.

In its analysis of unpaid work, Statistics Canada also reported the share of the population that spent time caring for senior citizens grew to 18.4 per cent in 2006 from 16.5 per cent in 1996.

More women than men were devoting time to caring for older Canadians, the study said. Just under 21 per cent of women were doing so in 2006, compared with 15.7 per cent of men.

StatsCan's definition of providing care for seniors includes time spent giving personal care to an elderly relative or helping an elderly neighbour with groceries, for example.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008