Unpaid household labour is a major social and economic activity that underpins families and households and is essential for social functioning. At the individual level, household labour is critical to health and well-being, but it is also very time consuming and shared unequally within households. The rising demand for robots to assist with domestic work, such as robotic vacuum cleaners, indicates that some people are turning to digital technologies to solve the work-family crunch.
Despite the increasing digitalisation of domestic work, we know little about individual attitudes to domestic smart technologies and how these vary by personal and family characteristics. This issue is important because differential acceptance of domestic technology could potentially deepen existing workload inequalities across genders and classes, could expose some segments of the population to privacy risks, and transform family interactions.
This paper provides the first picture of acceptability of domestic technologies to UK adults. It is based on a vignette survey we are conducting, which was sent to 12,000 UK respondents selected to match a nationally representative sample on several core demographic characteristics. Our vignettes describe a fictitious family situation where respondents have access to smart technologies that can do housework and care work and are asked to decide whether they would like to use the smart technology. We expect a complex picture to emerge where respondents vary in how acceptable they believe domestic automation to be depending on their family situation, the task at hand and their own characteristics. Preliminary results indicate diverse patterns of acceptability. To give one example, partnered respondents are more open to automating housework, compared to care work. Single respondents are equally open to automating housework and care but are keen to do pet care themselves.