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3.11 Leisure time

The life tempo and time allocation of rural women differ to a large extent with the seasons. In Hengtang the women surveyed have an average of 50 minutes of leisure time per day in the busy seasons, with little difference between the three age cohorts. In slack seasons, the average leisure time per day is three hours, with the middle-aged women having the longest leisure time and the young women the shortest. (Compare table 3.28.)

In Jiahong the average leisure time for women of the three cohorts in the busy seasons is 1 hour and 20 minutes, with the unmarried girls in the young cohort enjoying the longest leisure time and the other groups all being about equal (table 3.30). In slack seasons, the average daily leisure time for women is 3 hours and 24 minutes; middle aged women and the unmarried ones in the young cohort have comparatively more leisure time, and the others are about equal.

Table 3.30 Comparison of time allocations of women and men, Jiahong

  Women Men
Elderly Middle-age Young, married Young, unmarried

Busy season

Productive labour 6:40 9:44 10:30 10:43 12:17
Household chores 7:15 2:49 3:15 1:31 0:45
Daily life 9:11 10:19 9:18 9:26 9:04
Leisure 0:54 1:08 0:56 2:20 1:54

Slack season

Productive labour 4:26 5:20 4:59 5:18 6:45
Household chores 5:10 4:06 4:57 3:05 1
Daily life 11:17 10:40 11:03 12:03 10:32
Leisure 3:07 3:54 3:01 3:34 5:18

Based on time records for 20 women and 5 men (including elderly, middle-aged, and young).

The women surveyed in both townships spend part of their leisure time listening to radio or watching television. (Not every peasant household has a television set; those without one watch at a neighbor's house.) About half of the women listen to radio every day or nearly so. About 40% watch television regularly, if not every day. Young women constitute the bulk of the audience; the elderly women are the least interested. The programming best liked by the elderly women is local opera; for the middle-aged and young women radio plays and television films are great favorites. They also tune in for weather forecasts, agro-technology, popular scientific knowledge, and news.

About two-thirds of the young women have formed the habit of reading books, newspapers' and magazines; only one-third of the middle-aged women have done so.

Women in both townships also spend leisure time calling on each other, chatting, or visiting relatives. Most of their leisure is spent with their family or neighbors. Women of the young cohort are more sociable and have wider connections with the outside world. They keep in contact with their schoolmates, colleagues, and friends.

3.12 Changes in women's value concepts, aspirations, and ideals

3.12.1 Views on socially productive labour and housework

Nearly forty years of socio-economic changes in post-liberation China have made the overwhelming majority of women realize through their personal experience the significance of taking part in socially productive labour. Women in Hengtang and Jiahong are no exception, but their views differ in some details, resulting from the developmental differences between the two townships.

On the question of whether the main occupation of women should be socially productive work or housework or both, the overwhelming majority of women in all three age cohorts in Hengtang hold that it should be productive work because they can have their own income to improve the living standards of themselves and their families and win genuine sexual equality. But three fourths of the women in Jiahong think that women have dual responsibilities. Although they share the view that only by participating in production can women enhance their economic status and win sexual equality, they still feel that it is women's responsibility to do a good job in housekeeping and to look after their husbands and children so that the men can concentrate on their jobs. This viewpoint is obviously born of the shortage of employment opportunities for the local surplus labour force.

On the question of who should do the routine housework, 60% of the women in Jiahong think that they should; the rest say that it is the job of the other female members in the family, such as mothers, mothers-in-law, daughters, or daughters-in-law. Very few of them think it should be done by their husbands or other male members in the family. In Hengtang, too, although most women are involved in production, the majority think that such jobs as cooking, washing, cleaning, bringing up children, sewing, etc. should mainly be done by women.

On the question of housework, women's views have not caught up with the actual reality. The fact is that quite a number of husbands in the two townships do household chores. Especially in Hengtang, the number of husbands sharing housework has increased considerably since the rural reform. The percentage of such husbands in the elderly and middle-age cohorts there has gone up to 60%-70% and in the young cohort to 74%. Yet most of the wives still maintain that-housework is women's job. Old concepts die hard.

3.12.2 Views on present occupations and hopes for the future

Our survey shows that women in the two townships working in the fields of industry, handicraft, commerce, culture, education, and public health are satisfied with their jobs, which are considered better than farm work because they generate more income and offer more opportunities for social contacts. In Jiahong, women working in these fields say that though the working hours are strict and the work consumes more energy than farming, it yields a higher income and is more interesting.

Among the women farmers in the two townships, most are satisfied with their work. Their reasons are that farm jobs offer more freedom of action and more choice in jobs, and they can have more time at their own disposal. But the feelings of women farmers differ. Many in the elderly cohort feel rather put out because they think they are old and semi-literate and are no longer fit to change their occupation. As the government has adopted a very flexible policy in the countryside over the last few years, they can now breed poultry and livestock on the side and earn a decent income. So they do not think much about the future. Women of the middle-age cohort, whose husbands earn a higher income working outside, prefer to do the farm work so that they can concurrently take care of the house and the children. Women in the young cohort also think that doing farm work makes it easy for them to look after their babies, and so they are satisfied with the status quo.

Women working in agriculture or other trades are generally not eager to acquire more knowledge or improve their technical skills. Only a part of them are interested in self-improvement to prepare themselves for better jobs. There aren't many women farmers who want to learn scientific farming and raise their agricultural productivity. Their common desire is that their children may receive a better education and take up non-agricultural occupations when they grow up.

In Jiahong 64% of the elderly cohort, 79% of the middle-age cohort, and 86% of the young cohort hope their children will receive college education. The majority want their children to do nonagricultural work such as working in factories, in government offices, or in the fields of culture, education, or public health. Only a small number of women want their children to become farmers. Of these, most are from the elderly cohort, fewer from the middle age cohort, and still fewer from the young cohort.

In Hengtang 56% of the elderly, 74% of the middle-aged, and 92% of the young women want their children to receive a college education. The majority hope their children will become skilled workers, engineers, or technicians. Women of the different cohorts have different aspirations for their children. In the elderly cohort 64% want their children to be skilled workers and 4% engineers and technicians. In the middle-age cohort 54% want them to be skilled workers and 20% engineers and technicians. In the young cohort 7% want them to be skilled workers and 77% engineers and technicians. Only a small number of women in the elderly and middle-age cohorts want their children to be either farmers or workers, and none in the young cohort want their children to be farmers.

We should look into the reasons why women of all the age cohorts in the two townships do not want their children to be farmers. One major reason is the low degree of agricultural modernization and the absence of a comprehensive farm-machinery industry to equip mechanized agriculture. So far, mechanization has been achieved in ploughing. Other farm jobs, such as transplanting rice, weeding, harrowing, and harvesting, are still mainly done by hand, a backbreaking process. Besides, courses on scientific farming and professional training are not available everywhere in the countryside; agricultural productivity and economic returns are not high; and farmers' income is comparatively low. The problem of looking down on agricultural jobs can only be solved by extensive dissemination of scientific knowledge and the application of modernized farming, further increases in agricultural productivity and cost efficiency, improvement of working conditions, reduction of labour intensity, further development of a commodity economy, and the strengthening of ideological education on the bright future of modernized agriculture.

Another problem is that none of the women surveyed want their children to become traders, though a number of them do engage in both farming and trading, and a few have even given up farming to do business exclusively to make more money. The women's reluctance to have their offspring engage in trade is the result of a tradition that looks down on traders. Besides, a commodity economy has only recently been introduced in the countryside. In the course of its development, people in the rural areas will gradually come to realize the significance of commerce and change their concepts.

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