72% of women say they do the majority of household tasks, but just 18% of men agree
Women do 36 hours of household tasks per week, nine hours more than men
Gender is bigger influence on household responsibilities than pay or employment status
Couples who don’t share the load equally argue about it five times per month on average
Starling launches its Share the Load tool to help couples plan household tasks equally
8 November 2023: Housework is not equal in UK relationships, but couples can’t agree who contributes most, and it’s leading to quarrels and conflict.
While nearly three quarters (72%) of women say they do the majority of household tasks in their relationship, just 18% of men agree their partner does the most. Meanwhile, 44% of men report doing the most at home, while just 6% of women agree, according to Starling Bank’s survey of more than 4,000 straight and 250 LGBTQ+ cohabiting couples.
In straight relationships, women report doing 36 hours of ‘life admin’ and household tasks per week, equivalent to a full-time job, while men report doing 27 hours a week. The difference of nine hours represents more than a typical working day.
Women are primarily responsible for 10 of the 14 tasks analysed, while men are responsible for four. The division of different chores also follows entrenched gender stereotypes. The traditional ‘home making’ task of cleaning, for example, is five times more likely to fall on women’s shoulders than men’s (52% vs 10%), in addition to tidying (49% vs 10%). Women are also six times more likely to do the laundry (62% vs 10%) and twice as likely to look after shared pets (20% vs 13%).
Gender stereotypes work both ways. Men are more likely to take responsibility for tasks that take place outdoors, and are 12 times more likely to look after car maintenance (74% vs 6%), and more than twice as likely to be responsible for gardening (47% vs 20%).
Women taking on more of the load when a couple becomes parents
Women take on even more of the load when they start a family, the research suggests, with mums found to have more responsibility for 12 out of 13 different aspects of childcare than dads, from bedtime and bathtime to helping out with homework and buying clothes.
For example, mums are eight times more likely to take responsibility for getting children dressed compared to dads (40% vs 5%), six times more likely for changing nappies (29% vs 6%), and five times more likely for preparing food (50% vs 10%). The only aspect of parenting dads are more likely to take primary responsibility for is ‘teaching children how to use tools and fix things’ (33% vs 13%).
The impact of employment on chores
Gender has more impact on household labour than any other factor, such as employment or earnings. People who are not in paid employment only do three hours more housework per week than people who are employed full-time (33 hours vs 30). This gap is a third of the nine hour gap that exists generally between women and men (36 vs 29).
Four in ten of those surveyed (39%) say the highest earner should do fewer chores, however this isn’t reflected significantly in Starling’s research. People earning more than £125,000 a year do only three hours less a week than those earning less than £35,000 (30 vs 33).
While 62% of women who say they do the majority of household tasks believe this is fair, household inequality is leading to more conflict than calm. Couples who don’t divide housework fairly have more than five arguments about housework a month. Among couples who rely on one person for household tasks, arguments occur eight times a month, with a fifth (22%) of partners solely responsible for chores resenting their other half for it.
The LGBTQ+ perspective
More than six in ten (62%) of the LGBTQ+ participants surveyed say that they do the majority of household tasks, with just 13% admitting that their partner does more than they do themselves. Money is found to play a more significant role in the allocation of household tasks too; more than half (51%) say that the person who contributes more money has less responsibility for these chores.
However, they are more likely than straight couples to believe this is fair (62%), with the main driver being that the higher earner works longer hours (54%). A third (34%) stated that they work the same hours, but as their partner brings in more money, it is fair to show appreciation for this by doing more housework.
Rachel Kerrone, family finance expert at Starling Bank said: “Not many couples in the UK share the load equally when it comes to household admin and chores, and fewer seem to agree on how much the other person does.
“To help couples gain better balance at home, we’ve created the Share the Load tool, which allows people to see how household tasks are really split with their other half. We want to make conversations around household equality easier and clearer, which is why we’ve made the tool free for everyone to use.”
Hayley Quinn, relationship expert adds: "The division of household tasks can feel entirely unromantic, even transactional, as you ask ‘Who is dropping the kids off? Can you load the dishwasher? Did you remember to set up that direct debit?' But there are ways to improve your communication and the most practical way is to sit down, divide up different tasks and create a rota. Aiming to talk about how to share the load objectively can also make it easier to navigate what can be a highly emotive topic of conversation, if you do feel unappreciated. Effective communication can help reduce the burden of carrying the mental load, and keep both partners accountable for their responsibilities."
The below table illustrates how men and women say tasks are split within their relationship:
|Household task||Women in relationship primarily responsible||Men in relationship primarily responsible|
|Making the bed||46%||12%|
|Renewing car and house insurance||26%||44%|