Is the glass half empty or half full? Survey results from Italy

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

This story is authored by Michael Bockhorni, General Director of väter aktiv. www.vaeter-aktiv.it

Kindergartens and schools in Italy have been closed for more than six months, mostly without emergency service (probably the longest closures in Europe); this has led to a large increase in the amount of time families need for childcare and has massively changed the feasibility of balancing family and work. Depending on the sector, employer, technical equipment, etc., this situation has presented new opportunities and/or a growing burden. This has also led to a change in roles within families. The number of fathers who have taken on the primary responsibility for their children has almost doubled.

väter aktiv (active fathers), an organization in South Tyrol (Northern Italy), has conducted a survey to gain insight into the current situation of families (primarily fathers) as well as companies and organizations with regard to: changes in the general conditions, the reality of working from home, and the compatibility of family and work. One hundred and thirty-five people (119 men, 16 women) took part in the survey (85% from the German- and 15% from the Italian-language group), most of them had a university degree (62). The parents surveyed had a total of 226 children; approximately the same number of children are cared for at home (48) as go to kindergarten (59) or primary school (53); 2 are looked after in a day-care center, 24 go to secondary school, 20 attend upper-secondary school or vocational school, 15 are studying at university, and 5 are employed.

Strengthening the relationship between fathers and children

Of the individuals surveyed, 278 people learned from the crisis, 84 fathers learned in the area of their children, and 58 fathers learned in the area of partnership. According to their self-assessment, 11 fathers reported a positive effect and 1 reported a very positive effect on the division of roles.

Division of childcare

Childcare has shifted from being taken on by: one of the parents; grandparents in a different household; or by external services to a reality in which the (other) parent staying at home; parents are providing care while working from home; and are working while children are sleeping. Interestingly, the main responsibility for childcare has almost doubled for fathers; parents are sharing the care more equally, and the primary responsibility of mothers has decreased (8 fathers were primary caregivers before the crisis with 14 fathers during the crisis and 63 mothers as primary caregivers before the crisis with 56 mothers during the crisis.).

Time spent on house and family work

In terms of total domestic and family work, the most significant changes compared to the time before COVID-19 are more cooking (49 fathers agree), more time spent feeding children (33 fathers agree) or putting them to bed (25 fathers agree), more time spent waking up and getting dressed (28 fathers agree) or doing housework (31 fathers agree), shopping (26 fathers agree), and running errands (31 fathers agree), and less time spent on trips to the authorities, transport services for children, and contact with care and educational institutions. Unfortunately, the estimate of future changes compared to the time before COVID-19 is manageable: 40% of fathers want to spend more time on trips and games; 25% want to spend more time on making contact with care and educational institutions; 20% want to spend more time on travel services for children; and 20% want to spend more time cooking for and feeding the family.

Read the full report in German here.

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