Social Indicators Research

, Volume 93, Issue 3, pp 509–525 | Cite as

Relatively Different? How do Gender Differences in Well-Being Depend on Paid and Unpaid Work in Europe?



Absolute as well as relative hours of paid and unpaid work may influence well-being. This study investigates whether absolute hours spent on paid work and housework account for the lower well-being among women as compared to men in Europe, and whether the associations between well-being and hours of paid work and housework differ by gender attitudes and social context. Attitudes towards women’s and men’s paid work and housework obligations may influence how beneficial or detrimental it is to spend time on these activities, as may social comparison of one’s own hours to the number of hours commonly spent among similar others. A group of 13,425 women and men from 25 European countries are analysed using country fixed-effects models. The results suggest that while men’s well-being appears to be unaffected by hours of paid work and housework, women’s well-being increases with increased paid working hours and decreases with increasing housework hours. Gender differences in time spent on paid work and housework account for a third of the European gender difference in well-being and are thus one reason that women have lower well-being than men have. Gender attitudes do not appear to modify the associations between hours and well-being, but there is a tendency for women’s well-being to be higher the less housework they do compared to other women in the same family situation and country. However, absolute hours of paid work and housework appear to be more important to women’s well-being than relative hours.


Well-being Paid working hours Housework hours Gender Gender attitudes Social comparison Europe 



This paper was produced as part of the Economic Change, Quality of Life and Social Cohesion (EQUALSOC) Network of Excellence, funded by the European Commission (DG Research) as part of the Sixth Framework Programme. See editors’ introduction for further details. This paper has greatly benefited from comments and suggestions from Olof Bäckman, Jan O. Jonsson and Marie Evertsson, from the anonymous Social Indicators Research reviewers and from the authors and editors of this special issue.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI)Stockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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