Employed men working from home during the COVID-19 quarantine took on five times more household chores than before, highlighting the importance of work-life balance, said a Turkish expert, citing new research supported by United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

“Despite the rise in men’s contribution to household chores, women shouldered most of the household labor, doing nearly four times as much unpaid work as men,” Ipek Ilkkaracan, who helped prepare the survey, told Anadolu Agency.

She said the study shows when working hours are reduced to reasonable levels or remote working is promoted in Turkey, men will take on more chores, stressed Ilkkaracan, a lecturer at Istanbul Technical University.

School closures, rising demand for household consumption items, and domestic and care services triggered an unprecedented increase in the demand for household labor for both men and women, found the survey, done in Turkey this May with help from pollster KONDA as lockdowns were in effect across much of the country.

The survey underlined that women’s total workload – paid and unpaid work combined – remains higher than that of men.

Heavy burden disincentives paid work

The study found that as a result of changes in work patterns, and mainly due to a fall in men’s paid work hours, the gender gap in paid work narrowed under the pandemic lockdown, but gender gaps in unpaid work and total work time in couple’s households grew even larger.

For employed women, who continue to work in the workplace, the total work time was longer than 10 hours per day.

“This may affect women’s employment negatively as they will be reluctant to continue working in these conditions, which result in lower life quality for women and increased gender inequality,” Ilkkaracan stressed.

She noted that some 50% of women struggle to cope with this burden, while only half of the men – 24% – said the same.

“Bearing such a heavy burden of household chores weakens their commitment to their paid work, as it is not sustainable,” Ilkkaracan said.

“An equal sharing of chores is the key to gender equality in the labor market between men and women.”

The survey showed that women are nearly twice as likely to switch to working from home compared to men and also had less access to paid leave.

Higher risk during pandemic

While nearly twice the number of men as women reported employment disruption due to the pandemic, employed women face higher risks in this regard, the survey found.

“Women had to switch to remote working to set a balance as schools closed and due to not having external support for elderly, ill, and disabled care,” Ilkkaracan explained, as women normally end up shouldering this burden not normally counted in most economic models.

She also stressed that 85% of women and 65% of men in couples believe that household work should be shared more equally between genders.

“This ratio is 89% for employed women,” Ilkkaracan said.

The study also called for changes to workplace and social care policies to redistribute unpaid care and domestic work.

“The economic administration unveiled drastic relief measures to curb the economic fallout from coronavirus,” she said, but urged them to also “allocate a reasonable amount for social care work, which will also create employment.”

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