Domestic outsourcing and multitasking: How much do they really contribute?

Oriel Sullivan, Jonathan Gershuny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


The bulk of responsibility for domestic work and childcare in heterosexual couples falls on women. But the means they find to cope with this load, and how these means relate to the factors underpinning the division of labor are not often studied. Two much-cited ways of reducing overall work time are purchasing domestic assistance (outsourcing) and the multitasking of domestic/caring tasks. Using UK 2000/2001 time-use data (. N=. 4196 couples), we find domestic outsourcing is related to having dependent children and to partners' resources, but has little impact on the total domestic/caring workload of either partner. Nor can outsourcing account for the reduction in women's unpaid labor with increasing economic resources. Wives spend more time multitasking than husbands, but their proportion of multitasked domestic time is similar, and is not affected by resources or dependent children. Domestic multitasking seems to be more related to opportunity (time at home) than to time pressure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1311-1324
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 25 Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Domestic outsourcing
  • Housework/division of labor
  • Multitasking
  • Time use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


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