Gender Role Attitudes and Housework Division in East Asia

Monday, 11 July 2016: 17:00
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Shu HU, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Wei-Jun YEUNG, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Over the past few decades, condensed modernization and different state policies in East Asian societies have produced uneven progress on gender equality. In this paper, we examine 1) to what extent have gender role attitudes and housework division in China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan changed over time, 2) have the patterns diverged or converged, 3) to what extent are gender role attitudes associated with the gender division of housework across the four societies?

We use data from the East Asian Social Survey 2006 module and the International Social Survey Program 2012 module. We restrict data analyses to married women who were or had a husband in paid work at the time of the survey. Results show that both gender role attitudes and housework division are changing over birth cohorts between 1940 and 1980, though at different pace, in these societies. Consistent with the prediction of modernization theory, Taiwanese, Korean, and Japanese are less likely than Chinese to agree to the traditional gender role. Yet, Chinese couples are most egalitarian in housework division, followed by Taiwanese, Korean, and Japanese counterparts. The inter-society gaps in husbands’ share of housework have persisted, but appear to have shrunk across birth cohorts. The effect of gender role attitudes on housework division is smaller in China than in Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. We discuss possible reasons for such differences including family policies and labor market structure.

Overall, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan have shown a convergence towards other western developed societies both in attitudes and behavior. China, on the other hand, seems to be moving towards opposite directions, under mixed effects of different forces — return of more traditional attitudes after the retreat of state intervention in gender equality since the 1980s on one hand, and modernization and intensifying exposure to western culture on the other.