Despite significant movement toward equality over the years, responsibility for household decision-making and chores across BC generally follows stereotypical gender roles

Only about half of BC residents in a relationship feel the division of household chores and decision-making is ‘very fair’ with 50% of women feeling that they do more around the house compared to 19% of men.

Vancouver, BC – Insights West undertook a survey with 509 individuals across British Columbia in a domestic relationship to examine overall perceptions of the division of 25 different household responsibilities, chores, and decisions made between couples.  The key finding of the study is that in many homes across British Columbia in 2019, there are still throwbacks to 1959 despite the progress and changes in gender relations over the past 60 years. While men and women in partnered relationships increasingly share many of the responsibilities for managing and making decisions about the daily running of the home, there are many areas where the division of duties fall along traditional gender lines.

When asked overall whether the division of chores and decision-making within the household was viewed to be fair or not, an overwhelming majority of both men (95%) and women (87%) view the division as fair. However, when looking at the numbers more closely, an element of inequity arises as the degrees of ‘fairness’ vary. On closer inspection, 53% of men and 46% of women view the workload sharing to be ‘very fair’, yet a near equal percentage say it is only ‘somewhat fair’ (41% of men, and 41% of women). On the opposite end of the spectrum, about 13% of women and only 5% of men feel the division of responsibilities is not fair.

On an agree/disagree scale, it is interesting to note that the majority of respondents from both genders (60%) see their partner/spouse as sharing equal responsibility when it comes to chores around the home. Again, women are more likely to disagree with this statement (20%) vs. 9% for men. However, a far greater percentage of women are likely to believe that they do more around the home (50%), compared to 19% for men who feel they do more.

The survey examined a comprehensive list of 12 common household chores, asking BC couples about the breakdown of responsibility for each set of duties. The results show that for the most part, gender roles are being closely adhered to and arguably fall into stereotypical roles associated with 1950s cultural norms.

There are only three areas where the majority of men feel they are solely or mostly responsible: home maintenance (84%), taking out the garbage (66%), and yard work (57%). Women top the list for all of the nine other activities on this list—taking the lead (soley or mostly) on deciding where to shop for groceries (64%), meal preparation (63%), laundry (62%), home decorating (59%), and cooking (62%). Overall, an average of 19% of women feel they are entirely responsible for each of the 12 activities, and a further 28% felt that they are mostly responsible. Conversely, only an average of 12% of men feel solely responsible and 20% feel mostly responsible when it comes to this particular list.

When it comes to child-rearing responsibilities, again, roles are fairly stereotypical. A minority of parents say the role of taking care of children and far more women feel they are responsible for specific duties. Moms generally are more likely to take on the role of chauffeur (43% vs. 13% of men who primarily take the lead), tasked with picking up and dropping off children at activities such as school, daycare, and the like. Moms also take on more of the responsibility for general childcare (44% vs. 7% for dads) such as homework , clothing, bedtime, etc. Interestingly, a larger proportion of men than women (71% vs. 49%) feel that disciplining their children is a shared task; women feel that skews more toward falling on their shoulders.

One thing that does stand out is the greater mental load women take on beyond daily household chores. A significantly larger proportion of women say they take the lead in keeping the house on track with schedules; 75% of women (37% doing all of it, 38% doing most of the work) say they are primarily responsible for organizing household schedules (e.g. coordinating social engagements, making appointments, remembering birthdays/holidays). Only 5% of men say they take a lead role with 2% doing it all and 3% doing most of the planning. Furthermore, 29% of women would like their partners to take on more responsibility for organizing household schedules.

Insights West also wanted to examine household decision-making roles among couples within purchase categories that are of interest to BC businesses, in particular those in the restaurant, retail, financial services, automotive, and insurance sectors.

In the restaurant category, dining out is generally a shared decision. While 71% of women and 78% of men say choosing a restaurant to go to is a joint decision made equally, 25% of women say the decision-making falls on them compared to only 8% of men.

Gift purchases from a BC couple are mostly chosen by the female partner; 75% of women say they’re primarily responsible for purchasing holiday and birthday presents, compared to only 4% of men who say they’re the lead decision-maker.

There seems to be no equivalent gender divide when it comes to household banking decisions and bill-paying responsibilities. Only a third say it is handled equally with nearly the same percentage of men (48%) and women (55%) saying they are primarily responsible.

Mortgage decision-making is also split down the middle, with about half of couples saying it is an equal decision. About 18% of women and a slightly larger proportion of men (27%) say they take the lead here. While slightly more than half feel insurance decisions are shared equally, more men (38%) say they take the lead role compared to 28% of women. Similarly, when it comes to RRSP and investment decisions, men are slightly more likely to take responsibility (40%) than women (28%)—although 50% share in the decision-making.

As perhaps anticipated, automotive decisions fall squarely in the hands of men—as motor vehicle maintenance is handled mostly by men (69%) vs. women (14%), and only 28% share in those decisions equally. At the same time, automobile purchases tend to be joint decisions as stated by 62% of the respondents with 36% of men saying they take the lead role compared to only 13% of women.

Generationally speaking, the older the respondent the more likely they are to adhere to traditional and stereotypical gender roles and responsibilities. Baby Boomers and older reflect those most strikingly, where the woman in the relationship takes responsibility for tasks such as cleaning and cooking while the man looks after home maintenance and handy work. Increasingly younger generations – Gen Xers, Millennials, and coupled Gen Zs (though a smaller cohort given their young age) – become increasingly more equal in the splitting and sharing of responsibilities in running a household, but the stereotypical differences are still striking.

In addition to feeling like they take on a more-than-a-fair-share of household chores and decision-making, women feel that they need more help from their partner on a number of different chores, particularly when it comes to the chores they are overwhelmingly responsible for. While men are generally satisfied with the status quo of their household duties, women are more inclined to want their male counterparts to help out more with general household cleaning (39%), buying gifts (32%), cooking (32%), meal planning and preparation (31%), and clean up after meals (30%).

Interestingly, although most couples agree the division of chores is equally distributed, women are far more likely to agree that they are responsible for managing the household overall (50%), compared to men (only 21%).

While participating in the study, the data and overall percentage of respondents in a same-sex relationship was too small to make conclusions.

“When we first hypothesized about the results of this study, we were hoping to disprove pre-existing stereotypes of household chores and decision-making,” says Steve Mossop, President of Insights West.  “Unfortunately, many of us were dumfounded with the results, feeling that in many ways—the younger generation’s way of splitting household tasks was perhaps not as equitable as we thought it would be. On a business level, we also found some results that will challenge our clients’ perceptions of the role men and women play in key household purchase decisions.”

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary.

About this Release:

Results are based on an online study conducted from May 13-20, 2019 among a representative sample of 509 adult residents of British Columbia. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 4.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies between totals are due to rounding. Click HERE to view the detailed data tabulations.

For further information, please contact:

Steve Mossop
President
Insights West
778.891.4762
stevemossop@insightswest.com