Who does the dishes? Dutch gender roles in 2014

CBS has released an infographic report about gender roles in the Netherlands entitled "How do men and women share work, care and influence?"

The report provides an interesting insight into the evolving roles and responsibilities of men and women in the Netherlands today, revealing that men can be found more often in the kitchen, and that more women are heading to the office, compared to previous generations.

Then and now

Up until 1957 a woman who married in the Netherlands would lose her job and hand over control of any property to her husband.

Much has changed in the decades since. The report explores specific indicators such as the division of paid work; how men and women share household responsibilities; and their influence in society.

Work habits

Since the 50s and 60s there has been a strong increase in the number of working women, from 31 per cent in 1969 to 61 per cent in 2012. Meanwhile the percentage of working men has dropped: from 84 to 74 per cent over the same period.

The average number of hours worked by men and women has also changed: in 1969 men worked an average of 38 hours, and women: 29 hours a week. In 2012 that had decreased to 32 hours for men, and 21 hours for women.

Less hours for both sexes

Interestingly, both men and women work fewer hours in 2012 than in 1969. This is a consequence of the evolution of the Dutch working environment. Dutch law encourages a healthy work-life balance and legislation changes over the years have led to the Netherlands boasting the world's shortest work week.

CNN Money reports that the four-day work week is extremely common among Dutch working mothers, with about 86 per cent of employed mothers working 34 hours or less a week in 2012. Only 12 per cent of fathers, on the other hand, worked four instead of five days.

Financial independence

From a financial perspective there is still a notable inequality between genders, with only 48 per cent of Dutch women who are financially independent, compared to 67 per cent of Dutch men. Main reasons are that many women in the Netherlands work only part-time, and they earn less for the same work as men.

Who does the dishes?

Women still put more time into housework than men, although the difference is shrinking. Over the years men are increasingly contributing to cooking and cleaning, while the time women spend on such activities is decreasing.

In 2011 men spent an average of 12,3 hours a week on household tasks compared with 8,5 hours in 1975. Over the same period the amount of time women spend housekeeping has gone down from 35,2 to 23,3 hours a week.

Who looks after the kids?

A key game-changer was the arrival of the pill in 1963, which directly resulted in fewer children being born and families becoming smaller.

Today, Dutch women still spend more time raising their children than men. Also after a separation or divorce women often remain the main care provider.

Influence on society

We can also gain an insight into evolving gender equality by looking at how men and women occupy the most influential roles in the Netherlands. In 1969 only eight per cent of the House of Representatives was female. In 2014 that proportion has grown to 38 per cent!

In the private sector, however, things are moving more slowly, with the 100 biggest businesses in the Netherlands having only 10 per cent female board members in 2012. Science and education fare little better, with women making up only 16 per cent of professors.

Hearteningly, in 2013 female influence has gained traction in Dutch courtrooms, where 56 per cent of judges are women.

Emancipation ongoing

The report concludes that work, care and influence between the genders is not yet equal, and that emancipation is ongoing.

In Dutch society it looks like men still wear the pants, but the gap is slowly closing towards a balance for men and women between work, care and influence.

You can view the original CBS infographic here, in Dutch.

Beatrice Clarke


Beatrice Clarke

Beatrice is a native Melbournian who moved to the Netherlands in 2009. With a background in independent publishing and fashion, Beatrice honed her understanding of Dutch language and culture working...

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