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  • Writer's pictureekaterinahertog

All work and no play makes up gender inequality

This week, I have been busy with work often returning home after 7pm. Sometimes, other things also interfered—doing sports or attending seminars. Needless to say that I did almost no cooking or cleaning this week, which means that over the weekend, I will have to clean the mess that is my room right now. Many working women and men might be experiencing similar challenges.

Our analysis in the paper, published in Work, Employment and Society, shows exactly that—women and men tend to postpone their housework to weekends, often overcompensating for the neglected cooking or cleaning responsibilities. This means that considering the level of their earnings, the predicted time for working women and men should have been lower… if only there were no weekends. It seems that we are putting off housework to our supposedly ‘free time’ on weekends because the chores have to be done, one way or another. And while we are at it on weekends, we actually end up spending more time on housework than could be predicted by the level of our earnings. The results? Our ‘free time’ is contaminated by work (by unpaid work); thus, longer work hours effectively make us work all week.

What does this mean for gender inequality? It is no secret that women do more housework than men. For instance, the paper uses the Canadian General Social Survey data. In Canada, women spend more than 1.5h on housework chores on average weekdays and almost 2h on average weekend days than men. This means that women lose more leisure time doing housework than men.

To illustrate this point, I replicated the results of the WES paper on the American Time Use Survey data (Fig 1.). The figure divides the patterns into separate splines for dependent, equal-earner, and breadwinner women, taken as the terciles of income transfer variable1. Income transfer is a common variable to measure relative spousal resources. The solid lines show the aggregated weekly patterns for routine housework participation. The dotted lines represent weekend and dashed—weekday housework participation. The lines show that the weekend participation is on a similar level for all three groups of women, but the gap between weekday and weekend housework is larger among breadwinners (rightmost panel). [if you want to know how the patterns look for men, read the paper *wink*wink*]

The results show that people, especially women, are not just ‘compensating’ for the housework time on weekends, they are contaminating their leisure time with more work. Considering that women have to ‘compensate’ for more housework because of the gendered expectation on housework performance, it is women, who are more affected by postponing. In a society, where long hours are the normative expectation, women who earn as much as their husbands or more are more likely to put off housework to weekends and having less time for non-work-related activities. I hope that next time when I decide to work longer hours, I’ll think about these findings and instead, resist the culture of overwork, which victimises women.


1 Income transfer is calculated in the following way: (own income-spousal income)/(own income+spousal income).

Here is the abstract for the article:

Quantitative housework research focused on aggregate weekly hours, which are inadequate in revealing hebdomadal compensatory behaviour in housework participation because such behaviour is likely to occur on weekends when couples have more time to do housework. This article extends the existing theoretical frameworks by accounting for the hebdomadal patterns in routine and non-routine housework tasks. Employing five time-use waves of the Canadian General Social Survey, our study shows that the hebdomadal compensatory behaviour applies both to women and men. Equal-earner and breadwinner wives compensate for their low levels of weekday housework participation by doing more routine housework on weekends. Similarly, husbands also increase their time on routine housework on weekends. Therefore, compensatory behaviour is more likely to depend on hebdomadal time availability rather than on the neutralisation of gender deviance in the labour market (gender deviance neutralisation). Some evidence of the gender deviance neutralisation, however, cannot be completely ruled out.

Cite as: Kolpashnikova, K., & Kan, M. Y. (2019). Hebdomadal Patterns of Compensatory Behaviour: Weekday and Weekend Housework Participation in Canada, 1986–2010. Work, Employment and Society, (online first). doi:

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