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  • Jose Arrieta

Socialized Household-chore Specialization

For a household to thrive bread and care need to be brought and provided. In our past societies specialized the breadwinning and caregiving along gender lines. Thanks to the hard work of feminism this specialization is becoming a choice and not a socialized mandate.


By socialized specialization I mean the societal expectation that men will bring bread home in all its kinds and women will provide care for the household's emotional and health needs. This biased distribution of housework was close to a societal mandate. Not one written in ink but one written in gossip and shame. We are lucky to live in a present whereby the gendered societal imprint is degrading and a hint of choice is appearing in regards to how these tasks are shared or divided at home.


I say a hint of choice as it is now common for both men and women to work. As women become bread winners then the question emerges: If I can bring bread home, why can't you provide care to our household? Many men take this question seriously and carework is provided more and more often also by men.


Clearly we are distant from generalized equality at home. Yet, the drift away from specialization opens the question: How should we organize firms when specialization of household work becomes a choice and not a mandate? Simple ideas include providing daycares at work, or dry cleaners so that the amount of travel is reduced. But the implications of this major societal change are far reaching.


For example, specialization of household work is positively correlated with household income. It is a fact that in lower class households, both parents used to work, even before the 60s when it became illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex. Therefore, when we study the work-life of leaders of industry, famous scientists or artists of the past century (see figure below), history remembers men who rarely provided for any care work at home. A clear question arises: As carework becomes more common in high-income households, how will this affect how organizations compete and adapt? Many more such questions are possible.


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