Men are happier when working full-time, women prefer part-time

Men would rather 'simply' work full-time

More time at home? A 'daddy day'? Nah, if you ask men, working part-time doesn’t really make them happier. They’d rather ‘simply’ work full-time. Women, on the other hand, prefer working part-time to better balance their work-related and family-related responsibilities.

That’s one of the conclusions of sociologist Sean de Hoon’s doctoral research into the impact of family relationships and parenthood on social inequalities in happiness, income, and health. Traditionally, those inequalities were attributed to individual characteristics, such as level of education. But this doesn’t explain everything. Why do men still earn more than women even though women now have a higher level of education on average?

One of the things De Hoon discovered is that men with school-aged children prefer working full-time. ‘This allows them to fulfil the traditional expectations of the man in the role of the breadwinner.’

Marriage premium vs. motherhood penalty

De Hoon also explored the ‘marriage premium’: the fact that married men often earn more than single men. Because they’re breadwinners, they’re more likely to focus on work and thus earn a higher income. According to the researcher, this ‘marriage premium’ is higher in countries with more inequality between men and women, such as Ireland and Hungary. The same goes for countries with relatively few divorces: men tend to invest more heavily in relationships and feel more pressure to live up to their role as breadwinner.

Mothers, on the other hand, often earn less once they’ve had their first child: the so-called ‘motherhood penalty’. De Hoon believes that together, the marriage premium and the motherhood penalty contribute to persistent income inequality between men and women.

Daddy quota

So how can this inequality be reduced? De Hoon advises policy-makers to address those traditional roles that men and women assume. ‘One way of doing this would be to ensure that men get more involved in parenting, childcare, and running the home. An example of a policy measure is a "daddy quota". This is a scheme in Scandinavian countries that specifically reserves part of the parental leave for fathers.’


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