London, UK
Thomson Reuters Foundation

Working mothers in Europe and the United States are taking on most of the extra housework and childcare created by lockdown - and many are struggling to cope, a survey showed on Thursday.

Women with children now spend an average 65 hours a week on the unpaid chores - nearly a third more than fathers - according to the Boston Consulting Group, which questioned parents in five countries.

Coronavirus South Korea Mother and child

A mother and her child wearing protective face masks, following spread of the coronavirus disease wait for a signal at a zebra crossing in downtown Seoul, South Korea, on 3rd April. PICTURE: Reuters/Heo Ran/File Photo

"Women have been doing too much household work for too long, and this crisis is pushing them to a point that's simply unsustainable," Rachel Thomas, of US-based women's rights group LeanIn.Org, said in response to the data.

"We need a major culture shift in our homes and in our companies...We should use this moment to build a better way to work and live – one that's fair for everybody."

Researchers say fallout from the pandemic weighs on women in a host of ways, be it in rising domestic violence or in lower wages, as some women cut paid work to take on the new duties.

With lockdowns shutting schools and keeping citizens at home, creating a mountain of domestic work, public campaigns from Georgia to Mexico have urged men to do their fair share. 

But women, who on average already do more at home than men, are now shouldering most of the new coronavirus burden, too, said the survey of more than 3,000 working parents in the United States, Britain, Italy, Germany and France.

Women's unpaid hours at home have nearly doubled to 65 hours a week, said the survey, against 50 logged by an average father.

About two thirds of women surveyed say they now worry about their mental well-being, against just over half of men. 

British women are more likely to support others in the COVID-19 pandemic and are finding it harder to stay positive, according to separate analysis released this week by polling firm Ipsos MORI and feminist organisation The Fawcett Society.

It is "no surprise" to see women do more childcare and housekeeping on top of their day jobs, Jacqui Hunt of women's rights group Equality Now, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

However, there are "hopeful signs" that men in West Africa are sharing more childcare during the pandemic in a shift in social norms, found a small rapid analysis by humanitarian organisation CARE International released on Wednesday.