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Negotiating the Life Course
School of Demography
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
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Work and Family Life

    Professor Janeen Baxter
    Dr Edith Gray

Research in this area is concerned broadly with the relationship between the changing positions of men and women in paid work on the organisation of domestic work. It is becoming increasingly clear that the feminisation of the economy has not led to any substantial increase in men’s levels of involvement in domestic work. All of the available research on men’s involvement in domestic work concludes that in the majority of households change has been slow and uneven with women’s increasing paid work responsibilities having little impact on men’s domestic labour loads. Most research has concentrated on explaining this 'stalled revolution' by focusing on the characteristics of individuals in households, for example attitudes to gender roles, time spent in paid employment and the distribution of power or resources between household members. Moreover, the analyses have tended to be based on 'snapshots' of individuals in households at one point in time.

Our research seeks to move beyond the boundaries set by earlier studies by examining the impact of men’s and women’s changing employment situations on the organisation and management of domestic labour over the lifecourse.

There are three specific research aims:

  • To investigate what changes, if any, take place in the management and organisation of domestic labour as a result of women’s movement into paid employment and to examine how these changes vary across differing socio-economic groups and lifecycle stages.

  • To identify the mechanisms associated with men’s and women’s employment that might lead to changes in household organisation. For example, is the amount of time that men and women spend in paid employment the key factor in bringing about change in household organisation, or is change dependent on women moving into particular kinds of jobs such as managerial or executive positions? By change here, we mean not just changes in men’s levels of involvement in domestic labour, but also in women’s levels of involvement in domestic labour, including their identity as homemakers, the employment of paid help, or the involvement of other family members.

  • To examine the relationship between work identities and domestic identities. For example, how does women’s identity change as a result of their movement into paid work? Does this pattern vary across the lifecourse or for women in different kinds of jobs? In particular we will assess how women’s perceptions of the fairness of the domestic division of labour vary in relation to labour force participation and lifecourse stage.