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The Joys and Justice of Housework

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 November 2000

Janeen Baxter
Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia
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This paper investigates husbands' and wives' perceptions of fairness of the domestic division of labour. Using data from a recent national Australian survey, the paper shows that 59 per cent of women report that the division of labour in the home is fair even though they also report responsibility for the bulk of the work. On the other hand, 68 per cent of men report that the division of household labour is fair. Drawing on Thompson's distributive justice framework, the paper analyses the factors underlying these patterns in relation to perceptions of fairness of childcare and housework. The results show that, for both men and women, the key factor determining perceptions of fairness is the division of tasks between men and women. The amount of time spent on domestic labour is also significant, but is less important than who does what around the home. There is little support for other hypotheses relating to gender role attitudes, time spent in paid work and financial power. The conclusion examines these findings in light of the distributive justice framework and considers their implications for understanding perceptions of fairness in households.

Research Article
© 2000 BSA Publications Ltd

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