Ethnicity and housework

Research on the division of housework in the UK has focused on the white majority population, or at least has assumed that everyone is the same in how they organise their time regardless of their cultural heritage or ethnic background. We therefore very little about how patterns of domestic labour vary across different ethnic minority groups and how these might be associated with levels of education, whether people are in paid employment and gender-role attitudes.

New research by MiSoC’s Man-Yee Kan and the University of Essex’s Heather Laurie (2018) uses Understanding Society’s longitudinal data to chart how much time people spend on housework each week, how equal couples are in sharing housework and how this varies by ethnic group. The research takes into account people’s socio-economic characteristics, such as their education, employment status and when they arrived in the UK, and finds significant differences across ethnic groups.

It finds that white British couples are not necessarily the most equal in how they organise domestic tasks or in their gender-role attitudes and black Caribbean men have the least traditional gender-role attitudes of all groups. Indian men and “Other Asian” men spend more hours on housework than their white British counterparts, even though Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi women spend significantly more time on housework than white British women. It is also found that housework hours reduce for second and one and a half generation (those who arrived as children or teenagers) women but there are no significant differences for men. Across all ethnic groups, higher education remains one of the most effective mechanisms to achieve a more gender equal domestic division of labour. The research provides the first nationally representative evidence on ethnicity and the domestic division of labour, increasing our understanding of the complex links between gender, ethnicity and household labour in married and cohabiting couples in the UK.