"Making women work shorter weeks isn't the solution to unequal domestic labour."

Women do more housework than men. Yeah, and the sky’s blue, right?

While Australia is a diverse nation of many and varied relationship types, the data tells us this: most relationships see an unfair distribution of domestic duties between men and women.

And it has a very real effect on our careers.

Women spend around 4.5 unpaid hours every week looking after domestic chores, while men contribute less than half of that. The fallout? Women are tired.

No matter how hard we run to keep up with men’s weekly work schedule, we simply cannot match it. Staying behind for overtime just doesn’t work when dinner needs to be cooked, uniforms ironed, dogs fed, bins emptied, and the kitchen cleaned.

Revolutionary idea: men and women share the domestic chores, equally?

And so the debate continues: should women work shorter weeks to take into consideration their unpaid work at home, or should men just start to pick up the slack?

Men are able to work longer hours, quite simply, because they do not feel the same burden of unpaid domestic chores.

According to an article from Broadly, men work on average 41 hours a week; women average 36 hours.

The article references a recent study from ANU proving that women are sacrificing their mental and physical health in order to try and juggle longer working hours, and their domestic chores.

"Men work these hours because they're able to," says ANU researcher Professor Lyndall Strazdins, "thanks to having less responsibilities on the domestic front. They therefore have a 'significant' head start in their career, in the form of an extra 100 hours per year."


"But if we encourage women to try to attain those work hours, we're basically confronting women with a trade off between their health and gender equality."

Apparently, as you near 39 hours work per week, you begin to tip over the 'healthy' workload — and into a zone that leaves you overburdened, stressed, anxious, depressed, and unable to sleep properly.

The solution? Shorter work weeks.


The study calls the current situation 'time in-equality', saying that it gives men an advantage that women just can't match.

So they suggest limiting women's work weeks to a realistic time frame that takes into consideration their extra, unpaid housework.

"The research conducted by the Australian National University," writes Broadly, "shows that the healthy work limit for women is just 34 hours per week versus up to 47 hours per week for men—thanks to the time women lose on domestic and care duties."

I mean, that felt icky to write, let alone believe.

Are we seriously considering this a solution?


Is there really no better way to manage the male to female domestic load than cropping our hours spent at work, so we can go home and clean?

Raising children, and maintaining the home, should be tasks shared by men and women equally. (Image: iStock)

Fair to say that the instance of men taking on traditionally female-centric domestic roles has grown exponentially in recent years.

In data from 2014, 39.5% of women were reported to be the main breadwinner in their household, with the instance of stay-at-home dads rising.


Men DO change nappies in 2017. Men DO clean the bathroom in 2017. Men DO iron the uniforms, and read the books, and vacuum the living room.

In fact, the ABS reports that "...between 1992 and 2006, the average time men spent on household work rose by an hour and 25 minutes to 18 hours and 20 minutes a week."

So why can't we expect this trend to continue, and see the gap between male and female domestic duties shrink?

Men should be forced to work less, and be more present at home.

Women should be encouraged to work tandem hours with their male counterparts.

Workplaces should create healthier workplace environments with realistic workloads.

And both sexes should be encouraged to work less.

"Working more than 39 hours a week led to an increased chance of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety," says Broadly.

"Mental health is the number one chronic disease burden for women in Australia, costing eight billion dollars a year in healthcare, and eleven billion dollars a year in lost productivity in the workforce."

Many hands make light work.