Education merits --work?

Linda Purrington (
Thu, 10 Dec 1998 09:57:16 -0800

The following article makes an interesting--and mistaken--assumption
about women's education and men's domination of the rewards of
education: work. It invites comment.

The Times, London
December 9 1998

  Men of future will do chores and childcare,
           reports Alexandra Frean

         And how was your day, dear?

 WOMEN will become the main earners in at
 least half of all households by 2020,
 according to a report that shows female
 workers already earning more than their
 partners in nearly a fifth of all couples.

 The Family Futures report, commissioned by
 the banking group Barclays, also predicts
 that the 20 per cent pay gap between men
 and women will have disappeared by 2020,
 when women will make up half of the
 professional workforce.

 Graeme Leach, the report's author, believes
 that the continued "feminisation" of the
 workplace will force companies to create a
 "mother track" career structure for their
 female employees, ensuring that women who
 return to work after childbirth do not
 compromise their chances of promotion
 because they have had children.

 He said: "What sense will it make for the
 female to give up work, following children,
 if her earning power is substantially
 higher than her partner's? Post-2020 women
 may earn more than men as their flexibility
 and organisational skills prove more
 attractive to employers."

 According to the latest figures from the
 Office for National Statistics women earn
 80 per cent of the average hourly earnings
 of men and only 73 per cent of men's
 average weekly earnings. Just 16 per cent
 of women earn over 10 per cent more than
 their partners, 2 per cent earn between 5
 per cent and 10 per cent more and 7 per
 cent have equal earnings. Mr Leach, a
 futurologist and chief economist at the
 Institute of Directors, predicts an
 increasing demand from employers for the
 brightest women.

 He points out that women are already
 getting better qualifications than men.
 "Since 1990 there has been a 66 per cent
 increase in women full-time undergraduates,
 compared with a 50 per cent rise for men.
 In 1997, 48 per cent of women achieved an
 upper second class degree, compared with 40
 per cent for men," he said.

 One predicted outcome is that men will have
 to take on more domestic chores. Despite
 the rapid growth in female employment,
 women continue to shoulder most household
 tasks, including care for the young and old
 - a situation that will simply become
 untenable as the labour market grows
 increasingly competitive.Mr Leach said: "We
 will see the end of the late 20th-century
 situation whereby women have gone out to
 work whilst still retaining the lion's
 share of domestic chores as well."

 As a way of formalising the new division of
 domestic labour, Mr Leach predicts the rise
 of "parenting contracts" - signed
 agreements between couples stating that
 they will remain together until their
 children have grown up. The agreements
 might also specify how much time each
 parent will spend with their children and
 which caring tasks they will do.

 An increase in home working, particularly
 among men, will reinforce the domestication
 of fathers. By 2020, Mr Leach predicts that
 20 per cent of fathers could be working
 from home. The trend is likely to start in
 professional families then spread through

 These changes may also in part be a
 response to a deep-felt malaise among many
 of today's fathers. Two thirds of men today
 say they want to spend more time with their
 children, yet only one in 20 has actually
 cut his working week to make this possible.
 At least 17 per cent do not see their
 children every day.

 Family structures will also change
 dramatically. There will be fewer children,
 as couples become more dependent on two
 incomes and the cost in lost career
 opportunities grows for women taking time
 off to give birth. Women will also choose
 to have fewer children and to give birth
 later, as they concentrate more on their

 Mr Leach also predicts that teenage
 children with computer skills may find
 part-time work as companies discover the
 benefits in using the skills of an
 IT-literate generation of youngsters.

 One side-effect could be a threat to
 parental authority: it would be harder to
 discipline a teenager who is helping to
 maintain the parents' lifestyle.

 Also predicted is the rise of the "Walton
 effect" whereby extended families will live
 under one roof. The rising cost of caring
 for the young and the elderly will make it
 sensible for two or three generations of a
 family to move in together.

 And how was your day, dear?

 The changing attitudes to family life
 highlighted in Family Futures is
 illustrated by the following quotes from
 relationship books:

 "Be a little gay and a little more
 interesting for him. His boring day may
 need a lift and one of your duties is to
 provide it. Let him talk first - remember,
 his topics of conversation are more
 important than yours. Remember, he is the
 master of the house . . . you have no right
 to question him. A good wife always knows
 her place."

      The Good Wife's Guide, a home economics
                         book from the 1950s

 "Remember that there is only one difference
 between you. You can bear children. In
 every other respect you are equals. The
 distribution of responsibilities at home
 will inversely reflect responsibilities in
 the workplace. If you both work equally
 outside the home, then you both should work
 equally inside it."

   The Good Partner's Guide, a 2020 lifestyle
                    textbook by Graeme Leach

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