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Six Feminist Myths: Myth #5

Men have only one job? O RLY?


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'Women have two jobs'

A very common claim in the public debate is that 'women have two jobs'. It's moreover presumed that men have only one job. There are variations on the phrasing, such as 'women carry the heaviest load'.

Following is a contemporarily typical bit of logic about having two jobs. I'm quoting Shadé Jalali, equality expert at the trade union 'The Union'.83

'In addition to their full time job, women also have the main responsibility for the home and the children. This leads to stress and responsibility for the children doesn't disappear when the women go off to their jobs. In addition, they don't get as much extra time to work out and take care of their health.'

The fact is she pushes her theory even further than merely saying 'women have two jobs' - she claims women have three jobs! And she's not alone. This is what Barbro Wijma, professor in medicinal female research, tells the newspaper Corren (Östgöta Correspondenten).84

'Think if you will about all the women who have at least three jobs today and feel like they're losing control over their lives.'

The use of 'at least' has to mean that professor Wijma believes some women have at least four jobs, perhaps even five. At least.

Men carry the heaviest load

But let's look at the facts. Once every ten years, the Central Bureau of Statistics carry out a very thorough examination of how men and women use their time. They call it the 'Use of Time Study'. The last study took place in 2000-2001. We can see the following.

  • It's true women work more in the home than men.
  • But men work more in the workplace than women.
  • If you add work at home to work in the workplace, you see that men on an average perform work for 8 hours 16 minutes per day. The corresponding figure for women is 7 hours 57 minutes.
  • So according to the bureau, men work 19 minutes more than women each day.
  • Amongst those who answered 'yes' to the question of whether they felt stressed, there are slightly more men than women.

And if you now say (as many feminists do) that 'women take the main responsibility for work at home', then you can also say 'men take the main responsibility for support'. Both jobs have to be carried out and the important thing is that it works as a whole for the couple or family.

Besides, it's interesting to study how work is divided between the workplace and the home for singles. There can't be any lack of equality in such homes by definition. The survey of use of time from 2000-2001 shows that for the group 'single, no children, 20-44 years of age', women work on an average 26 minutes more than men in the home. And for the group 'single, no children, 45-64 years of age', women work on an average 20 minutes more than men in the home.

This seems to indicate women in general are more interested in work at home than men. This difference in interest can be thought to play a part even with the use of time in couple relationships. A certain portion of the great time women in couple relationships devote to work at home can therefore be seen as an expression for a voluntary choice based on a greater personal interest for domestic work.

We can establish that in an average Swedish relationship between two sexes, both sexes, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, do their part (and the men do a bit more). But something that must be noted is payment. Work in the workplace, where men dominate, is paid for directly, whilst domestic work, where women dominate, is paid only indirectly (as an investor in the total household income). Within parentheses we need to point out that it's incorrect to call domestic work 'unpaid work' as so often happens in the social debate.

In a marriage or a couple relationship with a shared economy, the differences in type of work (external or internal) don't make a difference as all income is placed in a single pot and is thereafter shared equally. So the fact domestic work is only paid indirectly lacks relevance. But there can be two problems or these problems can appear after a while.

Each with their own budget

A comment on individual budgets is that it's not fair for someone who puts more time than their partner into indirectly paid work to accept individual budgets.

When it all comes to an end

If the relationship ends, the party who's done the most domestic work, often the woman, has collected more 'pension points' than the other. This despite the fact that both have contributed just as much to the total effort. This is a serious problem.

Luckily there's a relatively simply solution. We should have legislation that says that the 'pension points' earned by both parties should be shared equally afterwards, just as with the passing of one of the parties. All other property is shared equally, so the proposition is in accordance with existing traditions. Such a law should of course also cover private pension insurance plans. It's strange that this opportunity to solve the issue is not being discussed by politicians.

But with informal couples? Yes, if you choose to live in that manner, then you've opted to cede the judicial safety net formal marriage gives you.

In summary: we can state that facts show that women do not work more than men in Sweden. The claim 'women have two jobs' (whilst men, it's presumed, have only one) is a myth.

Copyright © Pär Ström/Stiftelsen Den Nya Välfärden. Translation copyright © Rixstep. All rights reserved.

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