I was recently alerted to a Just-in-time-for-Fathers-Day article about some research for Legal and General from brand strategy and research company BDifferent (I know… alarm bells already). It highlights an increase in the amount of work men do around the house. Apparently, out of the thousand parents questioned in January this year, the men said they spent an average of 53 hours a week carrying out household chores and childcare. This was an increase from just 34 hours a week in 2005. My initial assessment was that this is obviously a step in the right direction but meaningless in terms of gauging equality when the recent reports don’t mention how much the women in the research said they did in comparison.
Alan Ferguson, protection marketing and channel development director at Legal and General (you can see where this is heading) has been quoted saying “Mums often get the headlines when it comes to domestic work”. Funnily enough, I didn’t need to look very far to find those “headlines” because it turns out the very same research (albeit with emphasis on a different part of the results) was doing the rounds just-in-time-for-Mothers-Day back in March. I’m not going to link to a load of sites devoted to helping people spend more money but, just like the more recent articles extolling the “value of Dad”, there is a major emphasis in these March articles on the calculated value of the domestic work Mums do. This, in turn, leads to heavy hints about how important it is for these unsung home heroes to purchase life insurance.
I know I shouldn’t be surprised about this. I realise it’s just the kind of thing one can expect from big companies busily finding new and innovative ways to get more money out of us. I just think it leaves a rather sour taste when this is a piece of research that presents itself as being about relationships between people and therefore surely leads the reader to consider its social value and take it seriously. Added later: Also, doesn’t all this look like a rather cynical and patronising attempt to exploit the tawdry so-called “battle of the sexes” for financial gain? It seems Legal and General were framing March as Time for the Ladies to Realise their Worth and now, in June, have politely nudged the media to conveniently forget and hide all the data used for that angle so the guys are more likely to reach into their pockets during their “special” time.
Still, there are some interesting observations to be made when gathering together the information in the articles from June along with the ones from March. For a start, it looks like the gap between the women and men in the study, in terms of hours spent on domestic chores, closes much more when the men are compared with the full-time working women (53 hours on average compared with 55). However, there doesn’t seem to be any breakdown anywhere of the men’s employment status so like can be compared with like. I wonder why? Were only full-time working men included? Or, worse still, did they only bother to ask the women about their outside hours, while the men were simply assumed to be full-timers?