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Men Are Getting Slightly Better at Doing Housework, but They Still Suck

Researchers at Oxford University have found that married men are doing more housework than ever before. Unfortunately, it’s not enough.

by Sirin Kale
Sep 2 2016, 1:00pm

Photo by Tom Tomczyk via Stocksy

Congratulations, women of the world: your male partners have become marginally less entitled chore-avoiding assholes. According to new research from the University of Oxford, the division of household labor between men and women is more equal than ever before.

Before you celebrate by leaving a pile of dishes in the sink, a caveat: While men have gained confidence and proficiency when it comes to basic tasks like cleaning and laundry, there's still a long way to go before the household chore gap is truly closed. On average, American women spend over an hour—65 minutes a day—more on housework than their male partners.

The Oxford researchers analyzed 50 years worth of time use data from 19 countries in order to infer broad trends about how men's attitudes towards domestic work have evolved over time. Focusing on housework that is traditionally gendered "female"—laundry, cleaning, and cooking—they excluded chores that are seen as gender-neutral, such as DIY or car repairs.

The bigger picture? Well, things are getting better. Your grandmother would have had to fit in an extra 195 minutes of chores a day in the 60s, compared to the extra hour a day presently faced by American women. And she didn't even have a Spotify playlist to make the tedium go faster.

"It's difficult to predict when things will be totally equal between men and women," report co-author Evrim Altintas tells Broadly. "If you wanted to focus on the positives, you could look at how much things have changed in recent years. If you wanted to make a bad news story out of it, you could look at the current period and see how big the gap remains."

Read more: The Solution to the Gender Wage Gap Isn't Hiring Female Executives

Surprisingly, even men in more conventionally woke, gender-equal countries such as Denmark and Norway still prove capable of being chore-avoiding bros. While Norwegian men do the most housework out of all the men surveyed—clocking up 72 minutes a day—Norwegian women are averaging an extra 78 minutes a day on top of the time their men put in.

The link between the gender pay gap and the unpaid female labor at home is well established. A 2015 United Nations report argued that governments need to recognize that introducing legislation to protect female workplace rights isn't enough—women will only be able to participate in the workplace fully when they become spend less time on unpaid domestic or caring responsibilities. "Governments should take actionable steps to reduce the burden of unpaid care work—which is carried by women—and create an industry of jobs and employment for services," UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told Time.

Photo by Preappy via Stocksy

Altintas highlights another intriguing finding from their research: Men in less gender-equal countries when it comes to housework, such as Italy, have actually made much greater progress—relatively speaking—then their peers in countries where the labor split has historically been more egalitarian. In 1980, Italian women spent on average 243 more minutes a day than their men on housework, but now that figure has been reduced to 183 minutes. Basically, these dudes have finally gotten the memo, and they're catching up.

Some would argue that these figures appear excessive: after all, few 20-something professional women report spending an hour a day on household chores. "It's important to remember that our sample includes all women aged 19 and over," responds Altintas. "Many of these women will have very different lifestyles, they'll have children, which increases the time spent on housework, or they'll be from a different generation who spent more time on domestic activities."

Read more: How to Build a Feminist Utopia

Ultimately, the issue of who takes the trash out is of profound socio-political importance. "The crucial thing to remember is that we all have a limited amount of time. And all the big changes that happen in our lives are consequences of how we accumulate our time," Altintas argues.

She uses the example of someone who wants to become a journalist. "It comes down to how much time you have free to spend on studying, going to school, making contacts. If you're doing housework, you're not accumulating that capital that will help you in the labor market. It all comes down to how much time you're able to invest in those things."

If that doesn't make men more inclined to pick up a vacuum every once in a while, a final thing to consider: splitting chores can get you laid.