Study: stereotypes still rule in Swiss family life

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Study: stereotypes still rule in Swiss family life
File photo: Stephan Hochhaus

Women and men are still fulfilling stereotypical roles within family life, according to a new report by the canton of Geneva’s statistics office.


Among couples in Geneva, 54 percent of women do all the household chores by themselves, compared with only seven percent of men. Only in 34 percent of couples are the tasks shared equally.

Where both partners work full-time, 49 percent of couples share household tasks equally, but women still do all the housework themselves in 38 percent of cases, said the report.

The report was published on Monday to mark 35 years since the principle of equality was written into the Swiss constitution, and draws on statistics from a 2013 study by the Swiss federal statistics office which interviewed 17,288 people across Switzerland, including 1,567 in the canton of Geneva.

The report also showed that women in Geneva are more likely to stay home from work if their children are unwell, and get them ready in the morning.

The preferred model for family life in the canton – favoured by 44 percent of people – is for the man to work full-time and the woman to work part-time.

Writing in the report’s introduction, Colette Fry, director of the BPEV, which promotes equality between women and men and works against domestic violence, said the results show that stereotypes regarding “traditional” roles for men and women persist.

“We have passed from the traditional bourgeois model where men worked full-time and women stayed at home, to a ‘modern bourgeois’ model,” she said, meaning a model where men work full-time and women work part-time and do most of the household tasks.

“This study shows that this model is seen by a large part of Geneva’s population as an ideal way of organizing family and professional life in a family with pre-school children.”

The traditional image of men as ‘providers’ and women ‘at home’ still remains, “even though it brings serious risks of discrimination”, said Fry.

The persistence of such stereotypes “fuels discrimination when it comes to hiring and promoting women and limits men’s ability to be more involved in family life”.

Nevertheless, despite the often uneven distribution of household chores, the study also showed that 94 percent of those interviewed were happy with the arrangement (98 percent of men against 89 percent of women).

This is not because women enjoy housework, said Fry, but because “they have learnt and integrated stereotypes” relating to a women’s position in the home.

Switzerland lags behind other countries when it comes to promoting equality in family life.

Mothers are entitled to 14 weeks maternity leave following the birth of a child, far less than some other European countries, while there is currently no statutory paternity leave.

Childcare costs are also high, with a full-time nursery place in Geneva and Zurich costing between 13-20 percent of a family’s income, compared with just 4-6 percent in neighbouring countries.

As a result, it is sometimes of little or no financial advantage for both parents to work.


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