Aussie household are in turmoil after their census included this simple request.
“In the last week did the person spend time doing unpaid domestic work for their household?” the ABS asked.Perth Now
I mean seriously, is there a better dog whistle to get couples yapping at each other over the perennial debate about who does what around the house?
“Include all housework, food/drink preparation and clean-up, laundry, gardening, home maintenance and repairs, household shopping and finance management.
The ABS asked Australians to estimate the amount of hours they’d spent on such unpaid work, offering five options ranging from none to more than 30 hours.
Social media was alight with debates on who gets credit for what in the ongoing partnership of domesticity. But I question if sorting by individual is more useful to a national government than sorting by household.
Call me nostalgic but I remember when people used to comment: “The Johnsons, they do so much for the community.” There was a time when couples were considered as a unit. And when you think about such things as unpaid work, a longer time frame, one that would allow each person to perform different duties at different times, makes more sense.
I know of several men, now in the twilight years of life, who were completely preoccupied with work-for-money jobs in their younger years, but are now fulltime caregivers to their spouses. There was a time when they would have been disdained for doing nothing within the household. Now they devote a majority of their time to enabling their household to stay together.
From the government’s point of view I would think this is the interesting unit of analysis: the household. How much time in unpaid labor is required to nourish a household? to educate, to retain good health, to keep in secure mental balance? These household averages could be quite useful.
Instead the census question seems to be provoking some fudging of the numbers.
Since last night, there have been countless reports of family rows over who spends the most time on chores — from who does the bulk of the cooking to whether putting your own dishes away can be used to bump up your “unpaid employment” tally.
But maybe more importantly it reinforces the ‘i’ in an arrangement that is about the ‘we.’