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Women work harder than men - phooey!

By Bettina Arndt - posted Wednesday, 5 April 2023

“Women work harder than men.” So read the sexist headline for an article earlier this year on The Conversation. Hardly unusual, given that the overburdened woman is a favoured theme with a media intent on singing women’s praises and denigrating men at every conceivable opportunity.

But this anthropological study takes the cake. It involved two female anthropologists who, believe it or not, gave Fitbits to farming and herding groups in the Tibetan borderlands. Fitbits are activity trackers which were used to measure the steps taken by men and women in their working day. The anthropologists found that these Tibetan women walked on average just over 12,000 steps per day, while men walked just over 9,000 steps.

“Women work much harder than men,” proclaimed the elated anthropologists, claiming that this “sheds light on the gender division of work across many different kinds of society.” That makes the ludicrous assumption that the number of steps matters more than other metrics for measuring work, such as effort in physical lifting, danger in jobs like the village blacksmith, let alone the value of the job, the skills required, the income generated.


No matter. More grist to the mill celebrating women and putting down men.

Meanwhile in Australia

The overworked women theme gets a run every time The Australian Bureau of Statistics publishes data on how Australians use their time. In the past whenever this data set was released, the Bureau pandered to the feminist narrative with press releases highlighting men’s failure to do as much housework and childcare as women, rarely even mentioning the hugely disproportional amount of paid work done by men.

There’s been complaints to the Bureau about this and finally the organisation responded with a more balanced headline last year when the latest results were published. “Females do more unpaid work, males do more paid work,” said the ABS media release but naturally this resulted in flurry of news reports  highlighting women’s burden and  not even mentioning the male contribution. Totally omitted from all media coverage was the fact that the amount of extra work done by men is huge – men work 46% more paid hours than women.

The ABS does not make it easy to figure out who really works harder overall. We decided to take a look at total contributions to the household, including childcare, domestic activities, as well as time for education and employment-related activities. That gives a measure of how busy men and women are, but excluding personal activities like recreation, shopping, personal care, social interaction etc.   

Looking at the data this way, we find all the previous surveys showed men were busier contributing to their households than women. But last year the results were from a survey that was taken during Covid lockdowns when there wasn’t so much paid work going on, and this showed women as fractionally busier, namely 15 minutes per day.  


But here's the truth about how men pulled their weight during Covid for their families and the response they should have received if we had a fairer media.   

  • Fathers worked 70% more hours than partnered males without children – an average of 5:33 per day vs 3:16. Thanks Dads for working so hard to provide for your families.

  • Partnered women without kids worked 27% less time than unpartnered women - 2:34 vs 3:32. That’s so generous of you to support them, guys.

  • Male sole parents spent 170% more time educating themselves than females. What a great example for your kids.

  • Male sole parents also coped much better than females - being much less likely to feel rushed or pressed for time. Good job, Dads.

  • Men spent 38% more time helping out friends and neighbours. Your community appreciates that support.

  • Men also increased the amount of time spent on domestic activities by 34% (women’s time didn’t change). You showed them that given a chance, men do their bit.

  • When child-care facilities closed down during Covid, it was mainly fathers who stepped up – increasing child-care time by 67% compared to previous surveys (female increase was 10%). Thanks, Dads. We know many of you loved that extra time with your kids.

Work more, earn more

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This article was first published on Bettina Arndt.

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About the Author

Bettina Arndt is a social commentator.

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