Australian dads may do less housework and childcare compare to Australian women but new research shows that Australian dads fare better than fathers in Italy, France and even Denmark.

''They do less than Australian women but they compare favourably to men in some other countries,'' says Lyn Craig, a senior research fellow at the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW.

In the study, Dr Craig said that the long hours paid work combined with their domestic labours means they work harder than Danish, French or Italian fathers and the same as Americans.She showed an example that Australian fathers spend 10 to 11 hours a day in paid and domestic work compared to 8 hours for Danish men.

However Dr Craig said that when Australian men compared to their counterpart, Australian mothers worked even longer. They may have less paid work, but the amount of time put on their children and on housework is far greater than mothers in all other countries.

She said that intensive parenting seems to be a phenomenon of Anglo countries.

The French, in particular, are sanguine about time spent with their children. French fathers spend on average 20 minutes a day in routine physical care of their children aged under five, and in accompanying them places, compared to 40 minutes by Australian fathers. They also spend much less time reading to them and playing with them.

French mothers on the other hand spend a mere 100 minutes a day doing childcare compared to more than 160 minutes by Australian mothers.

Dr Craig points out in her study, Work and Family Time: Australia in Comparative Perspectives, that the gender division of labour is much more unequal here - not because fathers do less childcare than fathers overseas, but because their wives do less paid work, and much more housework and childcare than elsewhere.

Dr Craig believes it is pointless for Australian policymakers to exhort hard-pressed men to pitch in more time at home. ''Perhaps rather than looking at what households should do to share the load more equally,'' she says, ''we need to look at what workplaces should do to limit demands on workers' time.''