By Alanna Linn
The division of labour is often a topic of debate. For example, two recent commentary pieces in the Guardian discussing men, housework and the ability of women to ‘have it all’ have resulted in extensive comments and heated debate.
The recently released Family and Work Report from the Second European Quality of Life Survey finds that whilst there is significant diversity of household and family arrangements, there is a clear gender dimension. People aged 35-49, especially women, have the greatest share of unpaid work in the home, which does not differ greatly across countries, unlike for men.
The need to develop policies that support the democratic sharing of labour is discussed in the new book by Walter Von Dongen, reviewed by Jan Windebank in the March 2010 edition of The Geographical Journal. Von Dongen argues that the ‘male breads winner’ model is being gradually replaced, albeit at different rates across Europe, by a new ‘Combination’ model, which results in greater symmetry between men and women’s participation in labour – both in the home and in the workforce. In looking forward, Von Dongen promotes the development of policy which will allow men and women to both have a high level of participation in professional work and a largely equal division of labour, whilst retaining the freedom for individuals to choose less equal divisions of labour if so desired – a right Von Dongen considers essential in any democratic society.