A Comparative Look at Attitudes toward Gender and Division of Household Labor in Russia, Japan, Germany and the United States

Tianyue Ma

Abstract


This article uses a comparative approach and a macro-institutional framework to examine the influence of historical, social, political and cultural contexts on attitudes toward gender and division of household labor (including childcare). Data used to answer the research questions come from the 2002 International Social Survey Program (ISSP) module on Family and Changing Gender Roles. Four countries that represent distinctive social, political, and economic systems are examined--US, West Germany, Russia and Japan. Findings show that attitudes toward gender and household labor differ across the four countries. Generally, respondents from Japan and West Germany show relatively more conservative attitudes, whereas those from the U.S. show more progressive attitudes. Russian respondents exhibit some kind of mixed attitudes toward gendered division of household labor. On some measures, e.g. attitudes regarding gender and childcare, respondents from Russia tend to be more progressive than those from the US, West Germany and Japan; but on other measures, e.g. attitudes toward gender roles (men’s job as breadwinners and women’s as homemakers), Russian respondents tend to be more conservative than respondents from the other three countries. The inconsistency of their responses to different measures reflects the complexity of the historical and cultural influence on gender attitudes in Russia. Findings also show a gap between men and women, with women being more progressive than men in attitudes toward gender and division of household labor. Male-female differences vary across countries. In the measure regarding men and childcare, the gender gap is greatest in the U.S, followed by West Germany, Japan, and least in Russia. In the measure regarding men and household work, Russia shows the greatest gender gap, followed by West Germany and the U.S, Japan shows the least. This variation in the size of the gender gap, again, reflects the complex influence of institutional and cultural on men’s and women’s attitudes toward gendered division of labor.

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