Women in Iceland Still Bear the Brunt of Domestic Labour

Women in Iceland are more likely than men to reduce their paid work hours in order to do unpaid work within the household. Women are also more likely to extend their parental leave than men and bear more responsibility when it comes to communicating with their children’s schools. Eight per cent of men never worry about household chores or childcare.

These findings are from a recent study conducted by Varða, a labour market research institute in Iceland. The study examines how couples balance work and family life and is based on a survey of parents with children 1-12 years old. Heimildin reported first.

Women more likely to work part-time

The study shows that women are more likely to work part-time than men: 68% of mothers were working full-time compared to 96% of fathers. The main reason mothers were working part-time was to make it easier to balance work and family duties. Women bore more responsibility for childcare after parental leave, did more of the communication with schools and after-school centres than men, and were more likely to worry about household tasks and childcare while at work than men. Women had also chosen their careers in order to facilitate balancing family and professional life to a greater extent than men.

Despite having one of the highest women’s employment rates in the world and scoring highly on many measures of gender equality, women in Iceland are more likely to reduce their paid working hours than men in Iceland. Women also bear the brunt of household chores and child-rearing and household management, or the so-called second and third shift.

Balance between work and family affects health

The survey asked parents how often they worry about household tasks and childcare when they are at work. A much higher percentage of women than men reported having such worries on a daily basis (43%) compared to men (27.7%). A higher percentage of men reported never having such worries (8%) compared to women (4.8%).

Varða’s report points to research showing that a balance between family and professional life, or a lack thereof, can have a decisive impact on health, both mental and physical. Studies have also shown that a good work-family balance increases people’s job satisfaction and work capacity.

Read more about the women’s rights movement in Iceland and Iceland’s recent shortening of the work week.

Conditions in the Cleaning Sector Unacceptable, Survey Finds

cleaning equipment

Living conditions for those in the cleaning sector are unacceptable, according to a new report from Varða, the Labour Research Institute. Women and immigrants dominate the sector, facing significantly worse health and financial conditions than other workers, RÚV reports.

Far worse conditions than other jobs

On Wednesday, Varða released a report on the status and living conditions of those working in the cleaning sector. The study covered members of ASÍ and BSRB unions, with unequivocal results.

In an interview with RÚV, Kristín Heba Gísladóttir, Varða’s director, stated that the situation of workers employed in the cleaning sector is worse, even much worse, than those in other ASÍ and BSRB jobs, based on all metrics used in the survey, whether financial status, mental health, or physical and job-related strain.

Kristín observed that this group often faces rights violations in the labour market, adding that international studies had shown that the outsourcing of jobs negatively impacts the workers themselves; although many respondents work for private companies, the jobs often take place in public institutions, yet the workers are not considered part of these workplaces.

Women and immigrants dominate cleaning jobs

Kristín Heba also noted the high proportion of foreigners in this sector. “Cleaning is predominantly done by immigrants, with 78% being immigrants and 22% native-born.” Kirstín added that women composed a much higher percentage of workers in the cleaning sector: “Only about a quarter are men, meaning women and immigrants primarily sustain cleaning in our country.”

Varða presented the research results to the leadership of ASÍ and BSRB on Wednesday morning under the title “Take action.” Kristín Heba told RÚV that the title referred to those working in cleaning. “But it’s also a call from the labour movement to employers and authorities to take action and rectify this situation because the living conditions of those in cleaning are unacceptable.”