There’s no shortage of research on the way heterosexual couples split up housework, but until now, it’s all pretty much come to the same conclusion: Men suck at household chores. According to a 2013 survey, men are less than half as likely to do chores as women on any given day. But a study published this week from Oxford University offers encouraging news: Although women still do more housework than men, their male counterparts are getting better at shouldering their share of work.
To compile the data, researchers at Oxford analyzed 50 years’ worth of time-use data from 19 countries. They focused on household chores that are traditionally seen as “feminine” such as laundry, cleaning, and cooking, and ignored more gender-neutral chores such as repairs and DIY tasks.
They found that “Over a 50-year period, there appears to have been a general movement in the direction of gender convergence in housework, but with significant country differences in both the level and the pace of that convergence.” In other words, although the division of housework has generally become more equal, there’s a lot of variation from country to country.
In 1960s America, for instance, the average woman spent 165 more minutes every day on housework than her male counterpart. These days the gap has narrowed: The average woman spends just 65 more minutes a day on housework than her partner.
Interestingly, the rate of change has been faster in countries with more entrenched gender stereotypes. In 1980, for example, Italian women spent 243 more minutes a day than men on housework; now, they spend just 183 minutes more.
Naturally, this type of inequality affects working women by exacerbating the gender pay gap. “The crucial thing to remember is that we all have a limited amount of time,” Evrim Altintas, one of the Oxford study’s co-authors, told Broadly. “It comes down to how much time you have free to spend on studying, going to school, making contacts. If you’re doing housework, you’re not accumulating that capital that will help you in the labor market. It all comes down to how much time you’re able to invest in those things.”