Feminists’ work not yet done

Men still have it easy the world over, enjoying more leisure time than women. So says an OECD study reported in The Economist.

The chart shows how many minutes of extra leisure time men have over women per day. It would be interesting to know how much of this extra time women resent. Do women choose to work more because their preferences systematically differ from men’s? Clearly they choose, in some sense, to work more hours than men do, but what motivates that and are women unhappy about it? If women want to work more hours then who are we to stop them?

I struggle with that question: if women prefer to work more and do household chores because of their upbringing then encouraging them to share the workload may not be welfare increasing. Yet it certainly furthers the right of women to be considered as equals in society. One might say that this trade-off depends on how much we value the right to be treated equally, but a rights-based approach seems inconsistent with a utilitarian framework. Can someone more knowledgable on moral philosophy help me out here?

8 replies
  1. StephenR
    StephenR says:

    There is a detailed report coming out on the overall situation in NZ…as soon as the government releases it.

    The Sunday Star-Times understands the report shows that as a group, female teachers, principals and support staff are not paid as much as men; that they are not treated with the same respect and fairness; and their promotion prospects are worse.


  2. agnitio
    agnitio says:

    I want to move to Italy now…

    Although I guess should look at aboslute leisure time in each country before making any decisions:)

  3. goonix
    goonix says:

    Having been to Italy I can definitely see why they’re world leaders in that respect. 😛

  4. rauparaha
    rauparaha says:

    @Brad Taylor
    Is it not important to ask where that preference stems from? If it stems from their upbringing in a patriarchal society where they are socialised into a gender role then the outcomes of those preferences may still not be regarded as equitable or morally defensible. I think Caplan’s approach side-steps the real issue.

  5. Brad Taylor
    Brad Taylor says:

    Fair enough.

    My guess is that it’s at least partly biological. Even if you think it is the result of socialization, the existence of the preferences mean you can’t really fit the problem into a rights-based approach. A right implies a duty upon another person. If it is the decentralized workings of culture which produce preferences you judge to be unfair, its hard to see who it is violating any rights. (That’s not to say you can’t talk about it being a moral problem. of course.)

  6. Homepaddock
    Homepaddock says:

    What exactly did they measure? Leisure time or hours worked and how were work and leisure defined?

    Not being “at work” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re at leisure.

    It’s possible that men call what they do for pay is “work” but don’t count their unpaid labour – domestic chores, child minding etc while women count paid and unpaid work.

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