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MEN STILL SIDE-STEPPING THEIR SHARE OF HOUSEWORK

It's the law in Cuba: Men are required to help around the hacienda. But like their male counterparts in Poland, Japan and the United States, they just don't do their fair share.

Nearly everywhere in the world, women are dressing the kids, washing the clothes, cooking the meals, making the beds and taking out the garbage - all before they go to work to earn less than men, according to an International Labor Organization report released Monday - Labor Day.And it's not just American "couch potato" husbands causing the problem.

"In Poland, even the youngest of married men do not help with the housework, while Japanese men spent only 15 minutes a day on chores around the house," the report by the U.N. agency says.

In Nordic countries, men whose working hours were reduced used the extra time for leisure activities rather than for housework or child care. And in Cuba, 82 percent of all Havana women do all the domestic chores despite the law requiring men to help with the housework.

"Family responsibilities are at the heart of much discrimination against women," said Michel Hansenne, ILO director-general in Geneva, Switzerland.

The differences between pay for men and women widened in both developing and industrialized countries, despite decades of efforts to advance female equality on the job, the report says.

Women work more hours a week, including housework, than men in every part of the world except North America and Australia, the ILO report estimates.

They work the hardest in Africa. The report estimates that African women work 67 hours a week, compared with 53 for men. In Asia, women work 62 hours while men average 48 hours a week.

In North America and Australia, men work 49 hours a week, while women work 47.5, the report says. In Western Europe, women average 48 hours, men 43; Japan's women work 56 hours and men 54; in Latin America, women work 60 hours to 54 for men.

Australian women are at the top of the pay equality scale, with salaries increasing from 86 percent of men's in 1980 to nearly 88 percent in 1988, the most recent year for which figures are available.

U.S. women's salaries increased from 60 percent of men's to 65 percent over about the same period.

Women lost ground in Japan, with earnings falling from 53.8 percent in 1980 to 50.7 percent in 1988. A seniority wage system in Japan favors men, and women are concentrated in lower-paid jobs, the report says.