First off, hat tip to the readers who flagged this to us, thank you.
The Yorkshire Building Society (well know gender activists there) did a survey about customers attitudes to gender roles. Now if you believed the first Telegraph article on this you’d think that “Women ‘are happy to be housewives’ ” (which was their headline). But wait, what’s that, a misleading portrayal of research results? No you do surprise me….
First off the research did not ask, contrary to the representation of it, whether women should return to the home completely. It asked what things were valued by a (heterosexual) man or woman in a partner.
The top three things most valued by men in their partner [were] domestic tasks, namely, taking care of the home (44%), cooking (39%) and cleaning (33%).
Now it seems to me that restrictive choices might have a role to play here because if I were asked what I value in my partner it’s not ability to earn money or to iron a shirt – it’s much more esoteric things like ability to understand me, make me laugh or talk sense when I’m stressed. However, to continue with the wierd mismatch between research and reporting….
Yorkshire Building Society questioned 1,527 people to find out what they most valued in their partners. The research shows that 38% of women value the financial stability that their partner provides. Conversely, when looked at from the other perspective, this number is halved with only 16% of men valuing financial stability in their partner. Only 9% of men surveyed thought they would not be able to cope financially if their partner were unable to work. However, this number rose to 15%, when women were asked the same question. Worryingly, only 29% of people had discussed with their partner how they would cope financially if either of them were unable to work despite the evidence of the invaluable role their partner can play in their life.
Ah OK so here’s the rub – basically, if we turn this around 91% of men and 85% of women thought they would financially cope if their partner was unable to work. Given the differential levels of homemakers and long-term disabled in women and men that is actually pretty good result. Lets me cheerful, the vast majority of people felt they could cope if disaster befell and a partner had to stop work. But lets also remember that this only asked seemingly heterosexual people with partners – it didn’t ask the single parent family or the single widowed pensioner how they were coping.
Meanwhile, and also according to YBS:
“the typical adult would earn an extra £8,000 a year on average if he or she was paid for the housework and other chores done week in, week out for free.
Now the gender neutrality of this is somewhat amusing and misleading, because we know from other surveys (see here and here and here for example) that housework still tends to be done by women even when they are working. (And The Telegraph has previously covered an argument that women’s lower market earnings (i.e. outside the home) are directly linked to their greater domestic burden in the home which is also the basis of this paper here). £8,000 seems quite a low figure, after all ONS study of time use has estimated that unpaid domestic labour contributes around £700 billion to the economy and the Wages for Housework campaign is advocating a wage of £500-600 per week (£28,000 approx pa) for unpaid domestic workers.
The Telegraph did at least publish an alternate view, Ceri Radford argues choice is the important thing. I think I’d aver that it’s actually representing the research correctly, but then I’m an unusual woman (seemingly, if the Telegraph coverage is to be believed) as both I and my partner want me to work.