‘Men and women’s working hours equal’

A new study shows men and women are doing the same amount of work a week, though women do more unpaid work, but there is a divide between rich and poor with wealthier women doing more paid work and lower income men doing fewer hours.

Two women doing a video interview on a laptop


Women and men almost do the same working hours a week with men doing more paid work, according to a new study.

The time of our lives study from the Resolution Foundation shows that gender divides in weekly working hours have shrunk over the past four decades. Women have increased their paid working hours by 5 hours 18 minutes to 22 hours per week, and reduced their unpaid hours by 2 hours 44 minutes to 29 hours per week. Men, in contrast, have reduced their paid hours by 8 hours 10 minutes to 34 hour per week, and increased their unpaid hours by 5 hours 35 minutes to 16 hours per week.

That means their total working hours are equal, with both doing around 50 hours of paid and unpaid work per week.

However, the study shows a big divide in the change in hours worked: women in high-income households have seen the biggest increase in paid work, while the fall in paid work among men has largely been driven by those in low-income households, who are working three hours less per day than they did in the mid-1970s.

As a result, the gap in total hours of paid work between high- and low-income households has grown from 40 minutes per week in 1974 to four hrs 20 mins in 2014-15, according to the Resolution Foundation.

It notes that with one-in-seven workers in low-income households wanting more hours of work (compared to just one-in-30 workers in high-income households), the fall in paid work for lower-income households is a cause of concern and “should not be written off as a lifestyle choice”.

A reduction in leisure time

The time of our lives also finds that the past four decades have seen a reduction in leisure time. Instead, women have increased their daily time spent doing paid work (up 45 mins) and childcare (up 28 mins), while men have increased their unpaid work (up 48 mins), childcare (up 14 mins) and sleep (up 29 mins).

The only group to have increased their amount of leisure time over the past four decades have been men in low-income households, says the Foundation.

George Bangham, Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Debates around how people spend their time often focus on a single goal – speeding up the move to a shorter working week to enable more time for socialising, sport and hobbies.

“But this isn’t how people’s lives have changed over the past four decades, desirable as it may be. Men are doing less paid work, while women are doing more. Both have less time for play – with childcare up, and leisure time down.

“Instead, a worrying new ‘working time inequality’ has emerged, with low-income households working far fewer hours per week than high-income ones.

“As many households rethink their time use in light of the lockdown, it’s important to remember that while some people want to work fewer hours, others want or need to work more. And for many, control of working hours can be as important as the amount they do.”

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