ISPI Energy Watch – Marzo 9, 2015
Do dishwashers are a symptom of women emancipation? According to a recent report of the Italian Institute of Statistics (ISTAT, henceforth) Consumi Energetici delle Famiglie (Energy Consumption of Families), published last December, the answer would be ‘yes’.
The investigation of ISTAT examines the consumption behaviors of Italian families with respect to several activities involving the consumption of energy. Among these activities, the employment of household electrical appliances in daily life is observed.
The results of the survey highlight that while refrigerators and washing machines are used by almost the totality of Italian households (with an average regional penetration of, respectively, 99% and 96%), dryers and dishwashers seem to be elite appliances. Actually, only the 3% and 39% of Italian families, respectively, hold a dryer or a dishwasher, with a significant heterogeneity across regions. Actually, if the 7.20% of families living in Emilia Romagna has a dryer, the 99.6% of Sicilian families does not. Similarly, if the 54.8% of families living in Tuscany employs a dishwasher, the 82.10% of Sicilian families wash dishes by hands.
Also, a more accurate analysis of the ISTAT data (here an Appendix with statistical analysis with the statistical analysis) reveals that the degree of penetration of dishwashers is higher in those regions where women emancipation has been more successful.
The same relationship appears to hold with reference to dryers, as well. However, the statistical significance of the link between women emancipation and dryers’ employment seems to be weaker than for that occurring with respect to the employment of dishwashers (see the statistical appendix).
In particular, once several factors possibly influencing the regional diffusion of the two appliances are taken into account – as GDP per capita, women’s rate of participation in the labor market, families’ average monthly expense for energy, families’ average dimensions, and regions’ specific characteristics – our econometric investigation shows that the employment of dishwashers is more frequent in those regions where to women is assigned a social role equal to that of man within organizations, social groups, community, etc.
The relationship between women emancipation and the utilization dishwashers is represented in Figures 1 below. The regional level of women emancipation has been measured by means of the following indicator: the percentage of persons interviewed for the World Value Survey (WVS) 5 that, in each region, affirms to not agree with the statement “On the whole, men make better business executives than women do”. The greater is such percentage, the greater is considered to be the level of women emancipation of a region. This indicator is among those commonly used in the economic literature on women emancipation (see e.g. Guiso et al. 2011).
The two figures below show that regions where women emancipation has been more successful – such to be reflected e.g. in the level of women’s participation in the labor market or, more simply, in social roles that nothing have to do with the figure of “angel of the hearth” – dishwasher show a higher degree of penetration.
As Popper said, a new social revolution may stand from kitchens. Dishwashers by making available to women more spare time may contribute to the achievement of their personal ambitions by consequently promoting a greater women emancipation and a stronger cultural and economic development of a country.