Saturday, July 08, 2006

Market Work vs Home Work

Heleen Mees says that European women spend less time in market work, but more time in home work, than American women:

While American women work 36 hours per week on average, Dutch women put in only 24 hours per week, while German women work 30 hours. French women with a job work on average 34 hours per week, but the percentage of women who work outside the home in France is almost 20% lower than in the US.

Are European females that much lazier than American females? The answer depends on whether one considers the time women in Europe spend on domestic work. The economists Ronald Schettkat and Richard Freeman have calculated that American women spend ten hours per week less on cooking, cleaning, and childcare than European women do. Instead of performing these household jobs themselves, Americans pay other people to do them. Americans eat more often in restaurants, make ample use of laundry, dry-cleaning, and shopping services, and hire nannies to take care of young infants....

In other words, American women work more hours and use the money they make to hire people to do the tasks that they can’t do because they’re working. By contrast, European women work less and have less money to spend on services. In their “free time,” European women are busy cleaning the house and looking after the children. On balance, therefore, European and American women work about the same amount of hours.

Why such a large difference between the United States and Europe? Higher tax rates in Europe are one reason. Because these taxes apply to work in the market but not to work at home, they distort the allocation of time between the two activities.