gender roles in the family

SOUTH Africans are still divided over gender roles in the home.

A snap survey has revealed that some men do help around the house while others feel this is a women's responsibility.

A study published by The University of Western Ontario in Canada reveals that couples who share the responsibility for paid and unpaid work report higher average measures of happiness and life satisfaction than those in other family models.

The study was conducted as part of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council-funded Population Change and Lifecourse Strategic Knowledge Cluster, a national network.

Lead researchers Rod Beaujot and Zenaida Ravanera, from the university's department of sociology, believe that couples are more likely to be in a shared roles model when women have more resources and when the couple is less religious.

The "complementary-traditional family" model - with men doing more paid work and women doing more unpaid work - is declining, but remains the largest category.

Researchers suggest that the shared roles model is advantageous to society in terms of gender equity and its ability to maximise labour force participation. It also leaves women less vulnerable in the case of separation, divorce or death of a spouse.

Mbuyiselo Botha of the Men's Forum said that any workload shared by a couple improves communications and leads to a better relationship.

"I do not know how good the research is but shared chores imply an appreciation of each other between a couple. There is no servant-master relationship," Botha said.

"It is misguided notions that prevent men from doing domestic chores. We can all be domesticated. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

"Women were not born to be domestics. It does not need specific sexual organs to do the job."

Music promoter Prosper Mkwaiwa believes that men and women should stick to what they do best.

"I do not agree with this survey. The more a couple do things together around the house, the more they irritate each other," Mkwaiwa said.

"Men should go outside to earn a living. Men were meant to hunt. A couple should concentrate on their roles and women must stay home to look after the children.

"The more they stick together cleaning, cooking, etc they are bound to quarrel. They should concentrate on their proper roles."

Beaujot and Ravanera suggest policies that support equal opportunities for men and women to access education and work, provide conditions that facilitate work-life balance and promote greater involvement of men in housework and childcare.