Flexible Working Arrangements and Gender Housework Inequality among Heterosexual Couples: Longitudinal Evidence from a Nationally Representative Cohort



In recent years, a growing number of organizations have provided flexible work arrangements (FWAs) for employees to facilitate their work-life balance. However, to what extent the use of FWAs shapes gender inequality in housework remains debated. Using longitudinal couple-level dyadic data in the United Kingdom (2012–2020), this study shows that among heterosexual couples, women’s housework hours are approximately 3.5 times longer than men’s housework hours. Women’s use of FWAs significantly intensifies gender inequality in housework hours regardless of whether their husbands/partners use FWAs or not. In contrast, men’s use of FWAs does not change the unequal gendered division of housework even when their wives/partners do not use any FWAs. The pattern is particularly pronounced in routine housework tasks such as cooking, washing, and cleaning and mainly applies to the reduced hours and teleworking arrangements. Future research should pay more attention to the unintended consequences of flexible working on gender inequality within families.


Dr Senhu Wang is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at National University of Singapore. His research interests include work and family, mental health and demography. His recent research has been published in journals such as British Journal of Sociology, Demography, Social Science Research, Social Science & Medicine etc. He is currently an editorial board member of Work Employment and Society and BMC Public Health.

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