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Temporal structures of gender inequalities in Asian and Western welfare regimes

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - GenTime (Temporal structures of gender inequalities in Asian and Western welfare regimes)

Reporting period: 2020-04-01 to 2021-09-30

Gender inequalities are produced through how people spend their time and the social contexts in which they spend their time. A key objective of this project is to investigate the temporal structures of gender inequalities in terms of how people spend their time on daily activities in Asian and Western societies. We will investigate the development trajectories and provision of unpaid work under different welfare regimes, and the systematic differences between men and women in the amount of time they spend on daily activities and their daily life schedules. We will investigate the role of state in shaping gender relations in modern societies. Previous works in this field, derived exclusively from data of Western Anglophone countries. In this project, we employ a global perspective by analysing newly available data deriving from beyond the now conventional Anglophone, continental European and Nordic countries: from China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan, to explore patterns emerging from other cultural and social traditions and historical backgrounds. GenTime makes pioneering efforts in harmonising time use data and family surveys from Asian countries, including China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. We will investigate gender inequality 1) at the household level, on how couples devise joint strategies to balance demands from work and family, 2) at the societal level, on how welfare regimes shape the trends in the gender ratio in paid and unpaid work, and 3) from a life course perspective on the impacts of domestic division of labour on later family outcomes.
We completed two major phases of harmonisation of data from 17 East Asian time use surveys (data are from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China, and Beijing) across the recent three decades. In the first phase, we harmonised the aggregate level of time use data in 70 major daily activities and a common set of demographic variables. In the second phase, we harmonised the episodes of the time use data. The harmonised data are comparable with data of the Multinational Time Use Study, which contains data of over 20 Western countries. These harmonised data are useful resources for comparative historical research involving East Asian and Western countries.
We have analysed the harmonised data and have written up several papers based on them. The papers are presented in major international conferences including annual meetings of the Population of America Association, British Society for Population Studies, and International Association of Time Use Research, and a keynote talk in the 2021 UK Household Longitudinal Study Conference. 16 papers have been published or have been accepted to be published and several papers are under review in major academic journals.
Some of the key findings of this project so far
• In several countries including South Korea, Taiwan, and Southern European countries, women worked two hours (paid work and unpaid domestic work) longer per day than men.
• The gender gap in domestic work time across Western and East Asian countries has been closing faster than that in paid work time from 1980s to 2010s
• The gender convergences in both paid work and domestic work are dependent on the initial levels of gender inequality, thus varying substantially across countries.
• In liberal countries such as UK and US and Beijing, where the gender gap in total work was relatively small (women work approximately 30 minutes longer), and the gender gaps in paid work and unpaid work were also small initially, the convergences in both paid work and unpaid work have stagnated, with no significant progression between 1985 and 2010s. In Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and the Central European and the Southern European countries, where total work and the division between paid work and unpaid work were rather gender unequal initially (women’s daily total work time was one hour longer than men’s), the gender convergence in paid work and unpaid domestic work have been continuing, though the pace has been particularly slow in Japan.
• There has been a continuous reduction in the gender gaps in paid work time and domestic work time in Scandinavian countries, where women and men had similar amount of total working time, but the gender gaps in paid work and unpaid domestic work were large at the beginning of the observational period.
• Elderly people (aged 60-75) in East Asian countries reported working significantly longer hours for pay than their Western counterparts.
• East Asian elderly women reported more time in paid work than Western elderly men.
• the lowest educated elderly in East Asian contexts reported more paid work compared to their more educated counterparts. However, we observed the opposite trend in Western contexts, where highest educated elderly reported more paid work time than lowest educated elderly.
• For domestic work, elderly people in East Asian countries reported less domestic work compared to their Western counterparts.
• The gender gaps in domestic work among elderly people were the largest in East Asian contexts, especially Japan, and smallest in Western contexts, except for Southern European contexts (Italy and Spain) which was preceded only by Japan.
• Elderly women reported spending less time on leisure than men across countries. The gender gaps were largest in Southern European countries (Italy and Spain), followed by East Asian countries, and smallest in Social Democratic contexts (Norway, Denmark, and Finland).
• Higher educated elderly in East Asian contexts (except for China where there was no effect), reported significantly less time sleeping than their less educated counterparts.
The project has gone beyond the state of the art in several ways.
1. While time diary methods have a long tradition, research efforts in harmonising and archiving these data have focused predominantly on Western countries. We have made pioneering efforts in harmonising time use data of East Asian countries, and have made them comparable with data of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, UK, USA. The Asian data include: China (2008), Beijing (1996, 2006, 2011, 2016), Japan (1996, 2001, 2006, 2011), South Korea (1999, 2004, 2009, 2014), and Taiwan (1987, 1990, 1994, 2004).
2. Existing theories of gender roles and demographic transitions are tested predominately by data of Western countries. The newly available data will enhance our understanding of factors contributing to the persistence in gender inequalities and low fertility in industrialised societies.
3. We have researched an agreement with the National Statistics Center, Japan and will set up the first data lab outside Japan at the University of Oxford for UK based researchers to gain access to Japanese survey data.
4. Time use data contain rich information about daily activities. Yet past studies focussed predominantly on the aggregate level of time use rather than the sequential dimensions. We have made sequence modelling more readily applicable to time use data, and have applied sequence modelling to analysing daily activity patterns of carers in Japan.