This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Couples Who Share Work in East Asia Are Apt to Have Higher Fertility

The latest paper published in Demographic Research is a very nice analysis of the relationship between fertility levels and the amount of childcare and housework that is shared by husband and wife in East Asia. The authors--Man-Yee Kan and Ekaterina Hertog--are both at Oxford and they have made innovative use of the East Asian Social Survey of 2006. In a nutshell, their findings are consistent with the growing view that very low fertility in East Asia and Europe is a function of increasing economic egalitarianism that provides women with labor force opportunities combined with low levels of domestic egalitarianism that puts a heavy burden on women who are working mothers.

The association between domestic division of labour and fertility preference is observed in all four countries, but increases in husbands’ housework participation are more consistently associated with wives’ preference for more children. Women rather than men bear the brunt of conflicts between the demands of domestic work and labour market work, and therefore their fertility preference is more strongly linked with the extent of their housework responsibilities.

The findings also indicate that East Asian countries are similar to conservative European countries, such as Italy, Spain, and Germany, which have the lowest low fertility in Europe. In these countries a traditional gender division of domestic labour is similarly associated with a lower fertility preference.
The policy implications of this and similar research are obvious. If governments can help lower the burden of childcare (through subsidized childcare) while encouraging parental leave and other means by which women's childcare responsibilities are lessened, the birth rate is likely to bump up a bit closer to replacement level than it currently is. 

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