Men Should Do Half Of All The Housework, Says European Parliament

15/06/2015 16:20 BST | Updated 16/06/2015 14:59 BST
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Calorie-burner: In the Fifties, doing the housework was a daily workout. Treats were home-baked and additive-free, not bought from the shop. Vegetables were relied on to bulk out a meal, and keep women full. And while fish fingers were new on the market in the mid-Fifties, ready meals were unheard of. A typical Fifties woman ate a breakfast of toast and butter with a boiled egg (220 calories), or bacon and eggs (180 calories). Lunch consisted of a pretty frugal corned beef sandwich with butter (430) followed by a slice of home-made Victoria sponge (175). The average dinner was made up of beef stew, boiled potatoes, swede and cabbage, with tinned fruit and custard for afters (1,000). And there was no time for lounging when women were at home. Only a third of families had a washing machine so most laundry was done by hand, an arduous task that burned up a couple of hundred calories, considerably more than we now use pressing a button. And only 15 per cent of the population - the majority of them male - owned a car compared with almost 80 per cent today. If women wanted to get anywhere, they had to walk. So, typically, housewives in the Fifties spent more than three hours a day doing housework, an hour walking to the shops, an hour shopping and a further hour preparing meals, burning a total of 1,092 calories in the process. Today's women work off just 556 calories through just over an hour of housework, 30 minutes' cooking plus another 30 minutes of activity, like light exercise. Hardly enough to burn off our new indulgent diets.

The European Union is being asked to make sure men do at least half of the household chores as part of a “strategy for equality”.

A committee of the European Parliament in Strasbourg wants the EU to launch a campaign to highlight the “equal division of domestic work”.

The Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality claims the “unequal division of family responsibilities” needs to be tackled by introducing “measures encouraging men’s participation in domestic labour.”

A leading Tory MP today blasted the plan, and called for the EU to stop its “ridiculous meddling”.

Equality campaigners point to research which shows in the UK 70 per cent of all housework is done by women, and nearly two-thirds of all chores is done by them even if they work over 30 hours per week.

The comments were submitted as part of the ‘EU Strategy for equality between women and men post 2015’, and drew derision from Tory MP Philip Davies.

He told The Huffington Post UK: “With Greece and the eurozone reaching crisis point, you would think the EU would have better things to be doing than lecturing families on who should be doing the housework.

“It is this kind of ridiculous meddling in things that are none of their business which has helped to bring the EU into such disrepute”

Ukip MEP Louise Bours also spoke out against the proposal, and told The Huffington Post UK: “What kind of organisation interferes to this extent in the private lives of people – their marriages, their partnerships?

“It is up to adults in the privacy of their own homes to decide who does what – it is not the place of any government, and certainly not the place of EU bureaucrats, to decide who does and who doesn't do the dishes."

The main focus of the text adopted by the European Parliament in Strasbourg last week was on tackling violence against women and reducing the gender the pay gap.

The text also claimed there has “been a slowdown in political action and reform for gender equality during the last decade at EU level”.

But as well as focusing on an increase in paternity leave and flexible working, it also called for the introduction of “awareness campaigns for the equal division of domestic work.”

The explanatory comments included in the original report, produced by the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, go even further.

Produced by German MEP Maria Noichi, it read: “The rapporteur is calling on the Commission to consider whether it should lay down specific targets and penalties with a view to reducing the gender pay gap. Furthermore, if a better work-life balance is to be achieved, men will have to devote more time to housework and caring.”

The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equality between women and men in the UK on pay, pensions, poverty, justice and politics, declined to comment on whether the EU was acting appropriately.

A spokeswoman told The Huffington Post UK: “What is appropriate is that the EU is striving to address the pay gap between men and women and improve the lives of children and families.”