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