Men’s reluctance to change: factors explaining new gender divisions of labour in Western Europe

Teresa Jurado-Guerrero, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
Manuela Naldini, Università di Torino
María José González, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Women in western nations are achieving higher educational and occupational positions. The most outstanding socio-demographic issue, however, is not so much related to the new role of women but men's reluctance to change. Women have progressively increased the amount of hours devoted to paid employment, but this process has seldom been translated in a more equal gender division of labour. Different explanations are provided to this resistance to change: the persistence of traditional values, women's relative economic disadvantage, women’s need to demonstrate her 'motherhood skills' while being in full time paid-work, socialisation-gender roles attitudes, lack of state support to dual-career couples or lagged men’s adaptation to women's changes. This paper uses a multi-level approach which places special emphasis on the institutional context (i.e. women’s options to exit relationships and women’s empowerment) in contrast to gender preference theory. We analyse men’s participation in domestic activities across EU countries, controlling for relevant institutional and composition effects, such as education or marital instability at the country level, and including both data on values and material constraints. In line with some pioneering research within this perspective, we advocate for embedding the analysis of the gendered division of domestic work in the cultural, demographic and economic context. We test three main hypotheses: 1) in countries with a low degree of marital instability and consensual unions (proxies for “women’s options to exit relationships”) men will have less incentives to renegotiate traditional ‘gender roles’; 2) the national index of female empowerment is a better predictor for men’s participation in domestic work than “national gender cultures”; 3) couples’ characteristics (e.g. earnings, working-time) are a better predictor for men’s domestic work than preferences. The study is mainly based on The European Social Survey (2004) which provides information for 15 countries and applies a multi-level analysis to predict men’s participation in domestic work according to individual, couple and country characteristics.

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Presented in Session 62: The Gender Division of Domestic Work

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