Men do not make the link between a more equal division of care work and equal pay for women. Neither do women: they don’t spontaneously think about more career opportunities or a better wage if tasks at home would be equally divided. These are the results from new research that ZIJkant had carried out by research agency Ipsos on the occasion of its eighteenth Equal Pay Day.
However, the gender pay gap can be largely reduced to a traditional role pattern in the household. Especially as soon as children are born, it seems as if women are tied to an umbilical cord for the rest of their lives. And that cord can get quite in the way, as shown in the original campaign film by mortierbrigade and Czar. For Equal Pay Day, ZIJkant therefore calls on fathers to divide the tasks fairly, and asks policy makers to eliminate the differences between paternity leave and maternity leave.
Women still earn 23% less than men on an annual basis, forcing them to work 83 days longer to get the same wage. That is why Equal Pay Day falls this year on March 24, 2022. At this rate, we still have to wait for another 58 years for equal pay.
A good start
First the positive news: wage inequality is indeed decreasing. For singles without children, the pay gap based on hourly wages is even negative (-7%), in favor of women. The turning point is the age between thirty and forty years: from this point on, the pay gap rises steeply, ending in a pension ravine of 33%. It is not entirely coincidental that the pay gap should arise when most people start to have children.
Figures from the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men show that women and men without children earn about the same wage per hour. But with each additional family member, the pay gap widens from 1.5% (no children) to 4.8% (1 child) to 5.7% (2 children) and 6.3% (at least 3 children). Mothers see their income fall because they reduce their paid work. The share of women working part-time increases along with the number of children they have. In Belgium, almost half of women work part-time(42.5%), mainly to take care of their children. Men, on the other hand, tend to work more when their family expands. In Belgium, only 11.8% of men work part-time.
New research: Men about their share of tasks at home (and what women think about that)
Previous studies have already shown that (care) tasks at home are not equally divided between men and women. We asked ourselves what it takes for fathers to care more. Commissioned by ZIJkant, research agency Ipsos therefore conducted a qualitative survey on the household of 24 cohabiting/married fathers with young children. Some of the findings were subsequently tested with a quantitative survey among 975 Belgians (18y – 55+y), with a partner of the opposite sex. Women made up half of the participants. Three results stood out to us.
‘Balanced’ division of labor (according to the men)
When it comes to their own family, the surveyed fathers generally feel that a dynamic balance has been established in the household.
What do women think about this:
The quantitative survey shows a more nuanced picture: more than half of the women (62%) think they do (slightly) more than their partners in the household. In addition, 47% of the men indicate that they divide the tasks approximately equally. But only 31% of women agree with this.
Part-time work as trade-off for a livable household
Time is a very determining factor in the division of tasks: those who have time do more at home. It is therefore considered logical by the surveyed fathers that a part-time working partner takes up more household chores than a full-time working partner. Part-time work is thus seen as a compromise to keep the household livable, which may explain the (one-sided) perception of a ‘balance’.
When asked for an ideal division of tasks, men are mainly open to solutions that give more time. They would appreciate the promotion of external domestic help and a flexible way of working, such as more flexible parental leave, an end-of-year bonus transformed into extra holidays, the four-day working week with retention of salary or more tax-efficient household checks.
Remarkably, with these solutions fathers hope to gain more me-time for their partners and themselves, more rest and more quality time together. The extra free time is not seen as an opportunity for the partner to focus more on her work.
Men see no link between care work and the pay gap
The link between reducing working time and increasing care time thus seems to be acknowledged. Yet, strangely enough, when asked about the consequences of an unequal division of tasks at home, fathers do not spontaneously think of the professional impact for the partner. In other words, they realize that time spent on housework and care tasks is at the expense of working time, but they do not consider the consequences on the labor market, such as the fact that women earn less or have fewer chances to make promotion.
The quantitative study confirms this reasoning: only 3% of men refer to increased career opportunities or a better/higher wage for the partner as a possible positive consequence of a balanced division of labor.
What do women think about this?
In short: the same. In the quantitative survey, 5% of women refer to increased career opportunities as a possible positive consequence of an equal division of household and care tasks and barely 2% (!) think of a higher wage. There are no differences according to age.
These results are striking, as figures show that the share of part-time work among women does indeed have a very large impact on the gender pay gap in Belgium: after correction for working hours, the pay gap decreases by almost two thirds: from 23% to 9%. The pension gap is also largely attributable to the high proportion of part-time work among women.
It is clear that having children still puts women at a disadvantage on the labor market, as the care responsibilities mainly fall on their shoulders. The combination of work and family proves to be difficult, and mothers pay the highest price. It seems as if that umbilical cord is never cut.
Campaign video: Give mothers a fair chance to compete
The labor market is not a fair game for women, because they are more often tied to children. With that idea in mind, communication agency mortierbrigade and production house Czar developed ZIJkant’s eighteenth Equal Pay Day campaign. In the campaign film, former female athletes testify about how their careers changed through motherhood. They do their utmost to continue to perform, but the umbilical cord makes their jobs difficult.
Fortunately, these sportswomen turn out to be accomplished multitaskers. For example, the world hammer throw champion exchanged the hammer for her (own) son, who is thrown away by his umbilical cord. The pole vaulter invented a pulley system that allows her son to coil and unwind the umbilical cord. The synchronized swimmers have more work to avoid getting into a knot.
The underlying message is: men, stop this madness and take up your responsibilities. Because let’s face it: the care of children can be taken up by both partners.
The research commissioned by ZIJkant shows that fathers themselves are asking for an extended and compulsory paternity leave. ZIJkant therefore asks to reform the system of paternity leave in the same way as the maternity leave (15 weeks). As a result, women and men are not only on an equal footing at home, but also at work. It has been proven that employers are more inclined to prefer a man for a new job or a promotion, because they fear potential motherhood might come with absence. A full compensation of the salary during the entire leave eliminates financial barriers.
Reduced working time
In addition, ZIJkant continues to promote the introduction of a collective reduction of working time. The large share of part-time work among women points to a combination problem. A thirty-hour week gives both women and men the opportunity to develop a career and make time for care tasks.