Assess the view that women being in paid work leads to greater equality in the domestic division of labour

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Assess the view that women being in paid work leads to greater equality in the domestic division of labour – Daniel Oluwadare 11H

The term ‘equality’ in the domestic division of labour (how the housework, childcare and paid work is divided within a relationship), and whether it occurs when women are in paid work, depends on your perspective sociologically. For feminists and most functionalist sociologists, this type of ‘equality’ is defined as conjugal roles (the sharing of tasks such as housework and childcare by couples, as defined by Elizabeth Bott (1957)) being identical. For few other (structural) sociologists like Talcott Parsons (1955), this means having segregated conjugal roles, but doing work that leads to an equal outcome. Seeing as the view is very similar to that of a feminist/functionalist sociologist, this view will be assessed from their standpoint.

Functionalist sociologists like Young and Willmott (1973) have a “March of Progress” approach towards identical conjugal roles. In a study they carried out in Bethnal Green, they found that men were now helping out with housework and childcare, while women were working more. There is likely to be a link between women working and men doing more household labour. In addition, the women’s work may be part-time or full-time, and that may have an impact on exactly how great the equality is. Feminists (notably Anne Oakley (1974) and Mary Boulton (1983)) have criticised these findings by Young and Willmott, however, claiming that they have exaggerated vague results. Oakley says husbands “helping at home” may simply just be a man who makes the breakfast every now and then, or one who pays an interest in his children. This was hardly equality in division of labour in her eyes. Just like Young and Willmott, she found evidence of husbands helping out but no actual evidence of “symmetry” in conjugal roles. Oakley found in a study that only 15% of husbands had a high level of participation in housework and 25% had a high level in childcare, however approximately 9 years later Boulton found less than 20% of husbands had a major role in childcare. This contradicts Young and Willmott’s idea of a march of progress as this depicts a decrease in men’s participation.

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Alan Warde and Kevin Hetherington (1993) claimed that men were only likely to carry out “routine female” tasks when women were not around to do them, after conducting a study in Manchester. This suggests that if women were to work then men would feel persuaded to take up some more (or some, if they were doing any) conjugal roles, and if women worked for longer hours, men would most likely take up some more conjugal roles for longer hours. Oakley claims the industrialisation in the 1800s led to paid work being separated from the home. In the past women would ...

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