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Temporal structures of gender inequalities in Asian and Western welfare regimes

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GenTime (Temporal structures of gender inequalities in Asian and Western welfare regimes)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-03-31

GenTime will investigate gender inequality in patterns of time use across East Asian and Western societies. We will investigate the development trajectories and provision of housework, care work, paid work, leisure, and sleep, and how women and men differ in their daily activity patterns. We will examine if East Asian regimes represent a distinct typology. The project will shed new light on the gender division of labour and social inequality across different welfare regimes.
We completed the first stage of harmonisation of East Asian time use data. We harmonized time use diaries from East Asian countries and the Multinational Time Use Study. We analysed the data and found overwhelming evidence for women’s “second shift” (i.e. women have longer hours of paid work and unpaid work than men) both in Western countries and East Asian societies during the period from 1980s to 2010s. On the one hand, in Western countries and Beijing, where the extra total work time for women is approximately one hour, the gender convergence has stopped. We observe no significant decrease in the gender gap in total work time between 1985 and 2016. On the other hand, in countries such as Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, with a gender gap in total work that was considerably larger than one hour at the beginning of the observed period, the gender convergence is still ongoing. The large gender gap in total work in Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan reflects the long paid work hours of East Asian men which prevent them from contributing to domestic work.
In addition to these dissimilarities in the trends for the total work, we also spot a number of similarities between Western and East Asian societies. For example, the gender convergence in domestic work is happening both in Western societies and in East Asian societies at the same pace. Most of the convergence is due to women doing less housework, rather than men taking up more domestic responsibilities. The gender convergence is also reported in the paid work. The rate of convergence in paid work, however, is faster in Western countries than in East Asian countries. These results suggest that the stall in western countries for the trends in total work is mostly because of the matching speeds in the convergence between paid work and unpaid work. In East Asia, the results are differing. The pace of the convergence in paid work is slower than in unpaid work. This indicates some structural barriers to women taking up more work and to men doing less paid work.
Additionally, as the descriptive results show, East Asian women work on par and sometimes even more than western women, the structural barriers are more likely to be because men in East Asian countries work very long hours at paid work. These long hours prevent them from contributing to unpaid work, as evidence by extremely low levels of time commitment into unpaid work among East Asian men, particularly in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.
We make pioneering efforts in bringing East Asian data into the scope of international time use research. We have harmonised East Asian time use data with data of Western countries which can be used for comparative research. 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 the persistence in gender inequalities and low fertility in industrialised societies.