Study finds mums did more housework during lockdowns

A new study shows mothers did more housework than fathers during the lockdowns.

Mother cleaning with her baby and partner sitting on the sofa, not helping


Mothers of young children did 67 more minutes of housework a day than fathers during the lockdowns, according to a new study.

The study, based on the time-use diaries of over 700 people, by economists from the University of Cambridge and Queen Mary University of London, found that only women saw an increase in cooking and cleaning while time spent on caring duties was spread across genders.

It found that, for those employed before and during lockdowns, people with at least one young child spent an average of 43 fewer minutes a day on their paid job in the first lockdown, and 32 fewer minutes in the third, compared to pre-pandemic.

For those without young children it was an average decrease of 28 minutes and 22 minutes a day on paid work respectively, although high earners worked significantly longer hours than lower earners.

Women with young children spent around an hour less on paid work a day than men and women without young children. This was mainly a reduction in time spent on actual work tasks rather than, for example, meetings.

During the first lockdown, the average time women spent on housework increased by 28 minutes a day, while for men the average time spent on subsistence activities such as sleeping and eating increased by 30 minutes. By 2021 these changes had evened out.

The study suggests that parents often forfeited leisure time. Living with young kids was associated with a drop in leisure activities of almost an hour a day in both lockdowns – and income levels made no difference to this loss of downtime.

For those without young kids, leisure time increased – but much of it was spent alone. By the third lockdown, people with no small children had around an extra hour of solitary leisure time a day over pre-pandemic levels.

However, in terms of quality – the self-reported “enjoyment” of given activities – this solo leisure time felt less pleasurable during the last lockdown than it had prior to the pandemic.

The third lockdown also saw around 20% of individuals spend more time working unusual hours (outside 0830-1730) compared to the pre-pandemic period, which reduced the reported enjoyment of their day overall.

Those earning £5k a month or more, worked almost two extra hours a day than people earning less than £1k a month by the last lockdown. High earners also spent less time on subsistence activities during both lockdowns.

Overall, the third lockdown felt a bit more miserable than the first, according to the research.

While there was little change in the enjoyment of various activities in the early days of Covid, with men even reporting slightly higher “quality” of time during lockdown one, by March of this year enjoyment of activities was around 5% lower than pre-pandemic levels across the board.

Dr Eileen Tipoe, co-author from Queen Mary University of London, said: “It is no surprise that having to do more work outside of typical working hours meant that people were substantially unhappier during the third lockdown.

“And it was concerning to find that women, and especially those with young children, were disproportionately affected by lockdown – for example being less likely to be employed and the fact that only women spent more time cooking and cleaning.”

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