Surprise, Surprise: Women Executives Still Stuck With Housework

More men than ever do housework and care for kids. But when comparing household behavior of top male and female executives, a German study shows stark differences between the sexes remain.

Sweeping the streets
Sweeping the streets
Thomas Öchsner

BERLIN â€" "That little bit of housework can be done quite easily," says my husband. "That little bit of housework can't be that bad," he says.

Those are the lyrics to a song once performed by German actress Johanna Koczian. Four decades later, there are more men who not only mow the lawn but also do the laundry, the dishes or clean. Nonetheless, the traditional division of labor is still in evidence in German households, even when women work in top executive positions.

Top female managers still perform at least an hour of housework on a daily basis, according to a study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). But the same is true for only half the men in executive roles who participated in this survey. Even on the weekends, women in executive roles in Germany's private sector are more likely to swing a broom, wield an iron or squeeze a detergent bottle than men in the same positions.

These women are typically highly educated and have the same workload as male executives. But even so, there are huge differences between women and men in managerial positions. According to the DIW study, women in managerial positions work on average 41 hours per week whereas men work for around 46 hours. Men, as opposed to their female counterparts, will often work more than 50 or 60 hours per week. But despite this, both sexes agree on one thing: They would like to work seven to eight hours less per week.

"Long working hours are perfectly normal but not very popular," says Anne Busch-Heizmann, one of the DIW researchers.

Finishing fourth â€" Photo: Royalty-Free/Corbis/Meridican

The researchers analyzed the results of the socio-economic survey, which was based on interviews with 30,000 people in 15,000 households in 2013. From this group, they isolated 1,550 people working in executive roles, 445 of whom were women. The results demonstrate that men and women demonstrate considerably different behavior where housework is concerned.

Women in executive roles, for example, very rarely have children who are younger than 3 years old. Only 12% of women in the survey did. But a quarter of all men in executive roles had children below that age. "This indicates that many men in executive roles have another person, often their partner, waiting in the wings, who manages their private life for them," the study concludes. "Such support for women through their partner does not seem to be the case."

Female executives spend twice as much time as executive men taking care of their children during working days. This twofold burden apparently affects sleeping patterns too. More women in executive roles report sleeping difficulties (29%) than men (19%). But both sexes, when working in highly responsible jobs, find it very difficult to switch off. "Four out of 10 executives found that they were still contemplating work-related issues during the evening," the authors of the study report.

The gap in pay is also notable. In 2013, the average monthly wage of a male executive was 5,195 euros. But female executives earned just 4,142 euros per month. The gap in pay has closed significantly since 2000, but men are still often rewarded with more of a share in profits or with bonuses.

But on a broader positive note, the share of women working in executive positions in Germany has grown from 22% in 2000 to 29% in 2013. Says DIW's director, "We are making progress, albeit relatively slowly."

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.

But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!