Scandinavians most attractive husbands, Aussies least: study

SYDNEY Wed Aug 5, 2009 9:03am EDT

A couple share a siesta on Manly Beach in Sydney, December 25, 2007. REUTERS/Will Burgess

A couple share a siesta on Manly Beach in Sydney, December 25, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Will Burgess

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Swedish and Norwegian men may make the most attractive husbands as they'll help with the housework while Australian men, renowned for their love of sport and beer, came last in a British study on roles in the home.

Economist Almudena Sevilla-Sanz from Oxford University set out to see if marriage and cohabiting rates in developed nations were linked to attitudes toward the roles of men and women and views on who is responsible for the housework and childcare.

Sevilla-Sanz, from the university's Center for Time Use Research, found that women living in countries with the highest proportion of egalitarian men, who were happy to do their share of chores, were more likely to marry or live with a man.

"This study shows that in egalitarian countries there is less social stigma attached to men doing what was traditionally women's work," she said in a statement.

"This leads to men in egalitarian societies taking on more of a domestic role so the likelihood of forming a harmonious household becomes greater, resulting in a higher proportion of couples setting up households in these countries."

The study was based on interviews with 13,500 men and women aged between 20 and 45 from 12 countries which were ranked according to an "egalitarian index" based on questions about gender, housework and children responsibilities.

Norway and Sweden topped the egalitarian index, with Britain in third place, followed by the United States, making their men the most attractive marriage partners for women.

Next came the Netherlands, Ireland, and New Zealand.

At the bottom of the index were Japan, Germany and Austria, with Australia coming last as the least egalitarian.

Data about the number of women in partnerships was then compared against the index.

Women of similar age and educational background were compared across the participating countries to see if their country's rating on the egalitarian index bore any relation to whether they were living with a man or not.

Sevilla-Sanz said women living in less egalitarian countries were between 20 and 50 percent less likely to be living with a man than women living in more egalitarian countries.

"The findings would predict that the average British woman was 8.5 percentage points more likely than a similar Australian woman to be in a live-in relationship," she said.

But while women seemed to prefer a man who would put out the bins and do the washing up, men were not so keen on women seeking a partner who wanted to split the chores, preferring a woman they could rely on to do all the housework and childcare.

"While egalitarian men seem to be viewed as a better bet by women, egalitarian women are seen as a less safe bet by men," she said.

The study, titled "Household Division of Labor and Cross-Country Differences in Household Formation Rates," is due to be published in the Journal of Population Economics.

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Sugita Katyal)

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