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Dads are struggling

This Father’s Day will be like no other.

Across the country and around the world, dads have found themselves locked down at home, often struggling to juggle work, child care and household tasks.

According to analysis of recent polling carried out for Oxfam, 60% of dads from across Britain say they’re spending more time looking after their kids and doing chores like cooking and cleaning. And they’re finding it pretty stressful, too.

This has been the day to day reality for women for years

For too long, these jobs have been invisibly and almost exclusively done by women, both in Britain and around the world. The disproportionate responsibility placed on women’s shoulders is directly linked to women in poverty, as women find themselves trapped at home and unable to go out and earn a living.

And although Oxfam’s new data shows that men have been doing more during lockdown, women have too. Given women were doing the lion’s share beforehand, doing extra is pushing some to the edge.

In a new five-country survey carried out by Oxfam, 56% of women reported feeling more anxious, depressed, overworked or ill because they are having to shoulder even more unpaid care work as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic is making inequalities much worse

It’s disappointing but not surprising that the pandemic is making existing inequalities much worse. The truth is that if you are a woman – and especially if you are a woman living in poverty, a single mother, or from an ethnic or racial minority – you are more likely to be spending a lot more hours cooking, cleaning, shopping and caring for your family at the expense of your own health and wellbeing. It’s clear that this is unsustainable – ultimately, the domestic load needs to be shared more evenly between men and women. We don’t just mean more dads stepping up to the plate; we need the plates to be washed and put away too.

The domestic load needs to be shared more evenly between men and women

A just, green and caring recovery from this pandemic provides the chance for such change – and it’s not just change women are calling for. In Britain, over half (58%) of men agree that they should carry out more unpaid care and domestic roles in the household, and nearly a third of dads want to be more involved in their children’s lives going forward.

This willingness from men is an important first step forward. Now what’s needed is for governments and employers to seize this opportunity to support dads to do things differently.

Oxfam is calling for more to be done to support fathers to take on more domestic work

Including the introduction of family friendly policies, such as offering 12 weeks of fully paid parental leave for one parent, on top of existing parental leave provision. Over half (52%) of parents polled support this call.

From our work around the world, we know that fathers who are more involved in looking after their children from birth are more likely to take on greater responsibility for childcare throughout their child’s lives.

At the moment, fathers in the UK are only legally entitled to two weeks’  leave, at a maximum rate of £151.20 a week. That’s just not good enough.

We must do more than celebrate fathers on just one day of the year. We need to support and encourage fathers, and all men, to pull their weight around the house. Only then are we likely to see unpaid care work – the hidden engine of our economy – being properly valued and rewarded, as we make a long overdue shift towards creating a truly feminist economy.

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