How coronavirus has changed the roles in the family home

Both research and anecdotal evidence are showing that in many cases, during the pandemic women are still picking up the bulk of the extra load.

Famed author of the book "Lean In", Sheryl Sandberg, has referred to the "double, double shift" that some women are now doing during the pandemic. Others refer to "the third shift" of extra cooking, cleaning and homeschooling during the pandemic. The latest ABC/Vox Pop Labs survey tracking the community impact of the virus shows the extent that women are picking up the extra workload.

"Now people are arguing that there's actually a third shift with all that domesticated labour and homeschooling, and anecdotally we're hearing in Australia that it's women that are picking up that slack and research overseas in the UK and the US shows that it's most definitely women that are picking up that slack," said writer and women's advocate Kristine Ziwica.

A New York Times survey found that 80 per cent of women said they were picking up most of the responsibility for homeschooling. Only 3 per cent of women said that men were doing more.

Later this year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics will launch an electronic diary system to capture data for the long-awaited return of its Time Use Survey. Face-to-face surveying is suspended for the moment. The aim of the survey is to get an accurate picture of who is doing domestic chores.

The ABS survey has not been run since 2006 and advocates say that it is even more critical amid concern about the impact on women, who have also been disproportionately affected by job losses in some of the worst-hit industries like tourism and hospitality. It is at the centre of a raft of research which various organisations are kicking off into how household duties are being divided up in Australia, and the impact of the virus.

The amount of extra work that women are taking on in the home is coupled with fears about a drastic step backwards for women in the workforce due to the effects of the virus. Some of the issues are structural, including more women than men work part-time and overall, women's wages are 14 per cent lower.

"If you're a family and you're making an economically rational decision in the current circumstances, when we're all feeling the pressure to hang onto our jobs and to hang onto our income if we still have one, the temptation would be very, very strong to prioritise the male partner's job in a heterosexual relationship over the female partner's job because he would be more likely to be in full-time work," Ms Ziwica said.

"He would be more likely to be earning more and in that regard, I think a lot of people have expressed the concern that the pandemic will send a lot of families back to the 1950s."