Women’s mental health could be drastically improved with shorter working weeks, a study by Australian researchers has indicated.
Although times have changed and many mothers now work full-time, it doesn’t mean the piles of washing and dinners to cook have disappeared, in fact, the pressure to complete the ever-growing tasks is taking its toll on Aussie women.
‘Me time’ for mothers is lacking, according the study from the Australian National University published in Social Science and Medicine, and their mental health is being seriously impacted by the masses of paid and unpaid work undertaken.
According to the study, which was boosted into the spotlight on the Today Show on Friday morning, Australian women are working around 33 hours a week, plus a further 31 hours on care and housework.
This is compared to men who work 44 hours and spend 21 hours on household duties.
Worringly, the study showed women’s mental health scores actually began to decrease lower than men’s when working weeks were more than 35 hours.
This has prompted the question whether women should work less hours to free up time for motherly and household duties.
Today Show commentator Prue MacSween weighed in on the issue on Friday morning saying she was fully in support of a drop in working hours for women.
“The problem is women are putting in their work week which could be 40-45 hours, then they’re doing another 20 or 30 hours at home in unpaid work where the husbands are only doing a flucky 20,” she said.
“Women are the nurturers, the homemakers, and sadly they are the ones that are doing the double shift so I think it is a great idea.”
However, this does throw a spanner in the works in the ongoing gender inequality battle.
Today Show host Sonia Kruger touched on the subject, saying, “women are reporting exhaustion, anxiety and depression, but if you’re working a shorter week, you can’t really ask for pay parity.”
However, thankfully according to a study by The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Australian men are great at helping out their dedicated wives, putting in more hours at home than many other husbands across the world.
The doting Aussie blokes are only beaten by Danish men when it comes to cleaning, spending around three hours a day cleaning compared to the Aussie’s who spend on average two hours and 52 minutes on chores.
According to the report, Aussie males spend 18 minutes more cleaning than men from Sweden and half-an-hour more than Kiwis and Brits.
While men from Finland, Germany and the United States spend up to an hour less n housework than Aussie men.
There is a tricky balance between how much work is too much for women and how much time should be spent at home tending to duties or, on the odd occasion, putting their feet up. But according to the study something needs to be done to keep a healthy mental state.
“Workhour expectation for many well paid and skilled jobs continue to embed a health trade-off that systematically disadvantages women and any adult who combine working with caregiving,” the ANU study authors said.
“There is an hour-glass ceiling for those who have care, and if this is not addressed then women will be choosing between working longer hours and compromising their mental health to earn equal income, or working fewer hours than men and entrenching gender inequality.”