Research over the last decade has documented the return of paid domestic labour across many European societies. This scenario is part of the broader process of the commoditisation of social reproduction, which has accompanied the displacement of the male-breadwinner family model by the dual-worker / one-and-a-half-worker model in some states in the context of little or no re-alignment in the sexual division of domestic labour. The main focus of research has been on the outsourcing of female areas of domestic work, namely cleaning and care-giving, and despite Cancedda’s (2001) observation of evidence across Europe of commoditisation of stereotypically masculine domestic chores such as gardening and household repair/maintenance, there has been little or no empirical investigation of the phenomenon. This paper is concerned with addressing that gap. Drawing on analysis of the UK Time Use Survey, it firstly documents the scale and characteristics of UK households’ outsourcing of typically male areas of domestic work. It then seeks to locate the processes underlying this phenomenon, as well as its implications, drawing on the analysis of in-depth interviews with both partners in couple households with dependent children which buy-in help with male domestic work on a repeated basis. The analysis suggests that there are strong parallels with the commoditisation of female areas of domestic work, with the outsourcing of male domestic jobs being found to play an important role in couples’ strategies for reconciling work and rest of life. In particular, the attempt by men to conform to the normative expectation of the ‘good father’ – someone who combines breadwinning with nurturing and a more active and involved role in raising children – in the context of a largely unsupportive institutional framework, emerges as a key factor underlying couples’ decision to outsource male domestic jobs. Moreover, there is evidence that men are doubly “let off the hook”, since a common outcome in households of outsourcing of male domestic jobs is that responsibility for its management falls to female partners. These findings are then considered in relation to the broader questions of the gender use of time and gender equality within the contemporary work-life balance policy regime in the UK
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