Source: The Australian, 10 September, 1997, p.3


Death of the family kitchen

 
 
By social affairs writer 
MICHELLE GUNN 
 
FORGET the nanny, the 
gardener and the cleaner. 
When it comes to paying 
others to do household chores, 
the nation's time-pressed fam- 
ilies are most likely to turn to a 
restaurant or fast-food chain. 
 
According to new analysis of 
household spending patterns 
home-cooked meals are the 
real casualty of modern living. 
 
And it is the family kitchen 
rather than the lawnmower or 
back shed which is in danger of 
becoming obsolete. 
 
In a seminar titled Does the 
Kitchen Have a Future? social 
researcher Michael Bittman 
disclosed yesterday that about 
90 per cent of households pay 
others to prepare their meals 
in any two-week period. 
 
But just 4 per cent of families 
use a cleaning service, 9 per 
cent employ a gardener, 10 per 
cent use laundry or dry- 
cleaning services and just 10 
per cent pay someone to care 
for young children. 
 
Bittman says the extent to 
which people pay for the prep- 
aration of meals is often under- 
estimated in debates about the 
outsourcing of household chores. 
 
But the trend is also supported 
by surveys showing that the 
amount of time women spend 
cooking has declined markedly. 
 
In 1974, a 50-54-year-old 
woman spent about 15 hours a 
week cooking. By 1992, this had 
fallen to 9.8 hours. Similarly, a 
20-24-year-old woman would 
have spent 7.6 hours a week 
over a stove in 1974 but just 4.3 
hours in 1992. 
 
The data shows a slight 
increase for most men over the 
same period, but the amount of 
time they spend in the kitchen 
remains negligible at between 
one and three hours a week for 
all men under 55. 
 
This reflects the difference 
between the genders on most 
other household chores as welt 
Bittman's analysis shows that 
as the number of hours of paid 
work performed by women 
increases, the amount of 
housework done by their 
husbands, sons and daugh- 
ters declines. 
 
The seminar, hosted by the 
Social Policy Research Cen- 
tre at the University of NSW, 
reveals restaurants and take- 
away outlets have become a 
$10 billion industry. 
 
Bittman's work supports 
the views of other outsourc- 
ing experts that the kitchen 
of the future will be a very 
different place-more like a 
tea-room with a microwave 
than a room equipped for the 
elaborate preparation of food.


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