“How Parents Give Their Kids Chores Around the World” originally appeared on Fatherly, and was reprinted with permission.
Despite what your kid might argue, asking him to make his bed every morning and help load the dishwasher after dinner doesn’t violate any international child labor laws. A small sampling around the world shows American kids actually do a lot (in case you thought yours were the laziest on Earth). But if they’re whining how much housework you hand them, let them know that plenty of kids around the world do a hell of a lot more. Here’s how your Chore Boy (or Girl) stacks up against kids in Spain, Great Britain, India, Canada, Kenya, China, and Japan.
Japan: Where students minor in the custodial arts.
Japanese kids are expected to be super independent and self-reliant, which means taking subways by themselves, running errands, and lots of chores. Kids as young as 5 bond over making meals and folding laundry with their families. Some schools even have students bust out mops and scrub brushes to clean their own classrooms on the regular. They don’t even see clapping erasers together as punishment!
Spain: Legislating (home) labor laws.
Forget timeouts — if you lived in Spain, you could threaten your kid with jail time if he refuses to do his chores (sort of). In 2014, the Spanish parliament drafted a law requiring children to pitch in on household chores, do their homework, and respect their parents and siblings. The country actually has a history of taking vacuuming and dusting super seriously: In 2005, they updated their civil marriage contracts to include a clause requiring men to help with housework. That’s why Spanish kids are always yelling “I learned it from watching you, dad!” while they Swiffer the bathroom floor.
Great Britain: Kids are bigger punks than the Sex Pistols.
A 2016 report found British kids are some of the best in the world at avoiding doing chores. More than 17,000 8-year-olds across 16 countries were surveyed about their home life, family, and friendships. Only 47 percent of British kids reported helping out around the house every day, compared to as many as 70 percent in other countries. To be fair, those children of Brexit have it rough. (Maybe if they’d stayed in the EU, some of that Spanish discipline would’ve rubbed off.)
Canada: Family farm hands or full-time employees, eh?
Kids’ chores were a hot topic in Canada a couple of years ago when officials banned a family in Saskatchewan from letting their 8- and 10-year-old girls do work on the family farm. The family called the girls’ roles in the chicken-processing plant “chores,” the government called it “child labor.” Classic tomato … go pick that tomato. It was an unusual case, since farming is usually an exception to child labor rules in the Great White North. Also, a recent survey by Whirlpool Canada found that 59 percent of Canadians think their kids have less chores than they did growing up. However, 82 percent of those respondents used the phrase, “back in my day” while shaking a cane.
Kenya: Helping out isn’t a choice.
Kids in Kenya play a huge role in helping out with cooking, farming, and fetching water (which can require up to 4 hours of walking per day), to the point that many of them don’t get to go to school. If your kid hears that and tells you he wants to stay home from school so he can help with the chores, the comparable response would be asking him to go buy a jug of Poland Spring — two towns over.
India: Where women do 15 times the work.
A 2014 study on the “Gender Chore Gap” found that Indian men do the least housework anywhere in the world. The OECD reported that men spend just 19 minutes doing housework, while women slaved away for 298 minutes. That unfair balance extends to young boys and girls as well. Generally, boys are expected to help with bringing in household income and girls are expected to help their mothers with “family well-being” activities like cooking and cleaning. But men — they’re apparently expected to finish watching a full cricket match.
China: Choosing school over sweeping.
To the Chinese, housework has traditionally been seen as good physical and mental exercise. But some are worried that China is moving toward the opposite of the problem in Kenya. With such a strong focus on academic education, kids aren’t being required to do as many chores (or leave their desks to see the sun). But weirdly, studies show a lot of it is their indulgent grandparents’ fault. So a whole generation of Chinese dads are off the hook.
More from Fatherly:
- How much time do kids around the world spend at school?
- Here’s how to get your kids to behave without messing them up
- I turned my kids’ lives into a game, and now they’re better behaved. These are the rules.