After decades of picking up towels and washing dishes, many women might not believe it.

But men in Britain now think that both sexes should split the housework down the middle, scientists have found.

However, women will not be surprised to hear that they end up doing more anyway - because they are more agreeable than men and want to avoid conflict.

For the study, more than 1,600 British adults were questioned about their preferred housework arrangements by British and German scientists.


Men and women agreed that domestic chores should be shared, although men who worked part-time while their partner was full-time did not feel they should do more.

However, distaste for doing more than their share of housework was higher among women. As well as this, other studies show women consistently do more chores than men - suggesting that women end up doing more of the housework despite disliking it more.

The reason for this is because they do not want to have a row, the scientists from the University of Essex and Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich concluded. This contradicts earlier research, which controversially suggested that women prefer housework or have higher standards of cleanliness than men.

Co-author Dr Maria Iacovou, from the sociology department of the University of Cambridge, said: "The take-home message from our research shows now that where a woman is doing more than her partner, it is not fair and she does not like it any more than the man would."

The paper, accepted for publication in the journal Social Science Research, states: "Several psychological studies have reported that women score more highly than men on agreeableness. In the presence of a marital hold-up (bargaining power) problem, women's tendency to be more agreeable and less antagonistic may mean they end up investing more in housework, even if this not economically the best choice for them."

However the authors say this might be due to 'rationalisation', in which women justify their situation to themselves, using explanations such as that their husbands' jobs are more important or they are not very good at housework.

The research is the first to ask women which housework arrangement they would prefer, as opposed to the arrangement they have, and their feelings about it.

Dr Iacovou added: "In the 1950s, if you had said women do more of the housework than men, no one would have batted an eyelid.


"These findings suggest greater gender equity, but we know women do more chores than men.

"This is not because women like doing it, of course, but previous studies show they have a lower tolerance for relationship conflict and this may be the reason why."