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GENDER INEQUALITY AND THE DIVISION OF HOUSEHOLD LABOR: COMPARISONS AMONG CHINA, JAPAN, SOUTH KOREA, AND TAIWAN
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This dissertation compares the gender division of household labor in China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. It poses three research questions. First, how much difference is there in the amount of time that men and women spend doing housework in the four countries? Second, which theoretical approach?the time availability approach, the relative resources approach, or the gender role attitudes approach?best explains gender differences in the division of household labor in these countries? Third, how does gender structure at multiple levels work to maintain this gender inequality? For this study I employed two sources of survey data, the 1997 East Asia Social Survey (EASS) and the 2002 Family and Changing Gender Roles III of the International Social Survey Program (ISSP). In addition, I conducted in-depth interviews with married men and women from the four countries. The results show that women perform the majority of housework in the four countries. Chinese women do the least amount of housework among women across the four countries while Chinese men do the most in comparison with men in the other countries. Among the three theoretical approaches offered to explain this gender division of labor, the data in several respects support the relative resources approach and the gender role attitudes approach, but not the time availability approach. Cross-national comparisons suggest that the relative resources approach explains women?s time commitment better than it explains men?s time commitment. This approach offers greater explanatory power with respect to gender inequality in household labor in Taiwan than it does in China, Japan, or South Korea. The gender role attitudes approach provides only slightly greater explanatory power in explaining men?s contributions to housework than in explaining women?s. In addition, this approach provides greater explanatory power with respect to gender inequality in household labor in China and Taiwan than in Japan or South Korea. Conceptualizing gender as a structure with effects at the individual, interactional, and institutional levels, I discuss how such a multi-leveled gender structure helps maintain gender inequality. I discuss how, at the individual level, interviewees? attitudes towards cleanliness are related to gender inequality, observing that men do not do more housework than their wives do even when they show greater concern for cleanliness than their wives show. This suggests that gender structure at the institutional and interactional levels constrains the behavior of men and women more than does gender structure at the individual level. The results show that Japanese and South Korean interviewees described greater gender inequality in the labor market than Chinese and Taiwanese interviewees did. Finally, the interviews suggest that gender ideology plays an important role in defining appropriate gender roles for men and women in these countries. Such a gender ideology is reinforced through everyday interactions between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law and mothers and daughters, which promote and maintain gender inequality.
Household labor; Gender division of housework; East Asia; Cross-national comparisons