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Equality in confinement: Nonnormative divisions of labor in Spanish dual-earner families during the Covid-19 lockdown

This study analyzes the intrahousehold division of labor within heterosexual couples with children during the COVID-19 lockdown in Spain. The strict confinement established could be regarded as an exogenous shock creating, for some families, theoretically favorable conditions for arrangements that deviate from traditionally gendered dynamics. The disappearance of time constraints from presential work and the impossibility of outsourcing housework and childcare gave highly educated, high-resource women in dual-earner, teleworking couples a unique opportunity to negotiate balanced distributions of work. An online survey carried out during the Spanish lockdown reveals that in most cases egalitarian and nonnormative arrangements were established. Time-availability factors emerge as crucial for this achievement. Nevertheless, a non-negligible proportion of these families exhibit traditional domestic work patterns, which highlights the resilience of normative structures binding women to the household sphere. The study also raises concerns about future socioeconomic polarization derived from differences in paid work constraints.

Highlights

  • The COVID-19 lockdown in Spain allowed couples to renegotiate traditional divisions of labor.

  • Telework and flexibility were key in helping high-resource women achieve nontraditional patterns.

  • The gender gap is smallest for paid work and play activities with children.

  • Women nonetheless continued to assume more unpaid work than men.

  • Research and policy should address class and gender gaps based on paid work conditions.

Seiz, M. (2020). Equality in Confinement: Nonnormative Divisions of Labor in Spanish Dual-Earner Families During the Covid-19 Lockdown. Feminist Economics, 1-17.

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