Possibly the only upside to being unemployed, as long as it doesn’t go on too long, is finally having enough time to take care of your living space and spend time with your children, if you have them. But as The Upshot‘s Josh Katz recently discovered, even unemployment looks different, depending on whether you’re a man or a woman.
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“Nonworkers spend much more time doing housework,” Katz writes. “Men without jobs, in particular, spend more time watching television, while women without jobs spend more time taking care of others.”
The average unemployed woman spent six hours a day doing what was broadly labeled “housework” — paying bills, cleaning, cooking, working on car or yard maintenance, etc. — while men spent less than three hours on the same. A fifth of the unemployed women in the sample group spent the bulk of their day caring for others, including children and relatives, while around 8 percent of men did the same. Men were more than twice as likely to spend the bulk of their day watching TV or movies, or enjoying leisure activities like reading, relaxing, or surfing the internet.
Why is all this important? Well, for one thing, it indicates the possibility of ingrained cultural expectations that affect women’s careers and earning power. PayScale’s data indicate that the gender wage gap is at least partly due to women choosing careers that pay less and offer more flexibility, but it becomes hard to blame women for making these choices, if they’re going to wind up doing the bulk of the unpaid domestic labor around the house, no matter what.
“…[T]he most obvious conclusion is that women handle most housework and child care not because they have more time at home than men to handle this work, but because it’s understood as their duty to get this work done in a way that is not true for men,” writes Amanda Marcotte at Slate. “Perhaps women derive more of their identity from housework and child care than men do, so that when they are unemployed, it feels more obvious to use that time to take care of children and clean things than it does for men. But also perhaps more women are nonemployed because their housework and child care duties make work outside the home impossible.”
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