Article 3

2020-03-26 Zenia Simonella

Is a New Division of Work Possible?

In this period of emergency, family (im)balance is being put to the test by people being forced to be constantly together in the home.

The question is: when mutual help between partners becomes essential, is a greater sharing of domestic work and care also emerging? For the moment, the answer seems to be no.

An investigation conducted by the Valore D association on the issue of female smartworking[1] stresses that in Italy one out of three women is working more than before and is unable to reconcile her work activity with home life. Home work and care, which has increased out of all proportion in recent weeks, continue to fall on women’s backs. Based on these results, if this situation were to continue, women, especially those who have jobs, could be subject to considerable physical fatigue and an increase of stress.

However, another possible scenario is emerging. Women could seize the opportunity to begin to break down the division of roles, attempting to involve their partners in greater sharing of domestic and care work. It won’t be easy though, because it is above all a cultural question.

According to the Italian statistics agency ISTAT,[2] a little more than one out of two men say they agree or agree strongly with the statement that “for the family, it is better for the man to dedicate himself principally to economic necessities and the woman to caring for the home.” The prevalence of that opinion reaches only slightly lower levels among women: 46.6 percent judge the traditional model of the family positively. This conception is stronger in Italy’s South, and in persons with a lower level of education. ISTAT has estimated that in Italy we will have to wait 38 more years before a couple in which both partners work will equally divide the same workload (professional and home/care).

Why wait so long?

This emergency situation could also represent fertile ground for a new discussion on the division of labor between partners. For businesses as well, hiring more women, or developing and promoting them, could be simpler in the long-term, provided that women are less overburdened with the management of private life.

[1] “Smart working al femminile al tempo del Coronavirus: il carico famigliare continua a gravare sulle donne,” March 20, 2020, Valore D,

[2] The data is taken from: ISTAT, I tempi della vita quotidiana, 2019, p.49 ff.