Snapshot of Australian parents: Too much work for some, not enough for others

Snapshot of Australian parents: Too much work for some, not enough for others

Media release — 16 May 2008

Australian fathers who are working longer hours than many of their overseas peers would prefer to work less, while the majority of Australian mothers who are working part-time are happy with their level of work, according to the latest snapshot of working families released today.

The data - collected over the last four years - and issued during National Families Week by the Australian Institute of Family Studies - found a substantial number of women are self-employed and working from home during their child-raising years.

Institute Deputy Director, Dr Matthew Gray says the drive to achieve work-family balance is spurring a shift among women to self-employment where they can do at least some of their work from home.

The snapshot found 22% of employed women worked mainly from home when they had a child under five.

At the same time, Australian fathers are working longer hours than many of their OECD peers, working an average of 45.9 hours a week, compared to Denmark, Germany, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden where men work less than 43 hour weeks.

The average working hours for fathers with children, aged between four and five, is 47 hours a week with one quarter of fathers usually working 55 hours or more.

Two in every five full-time employed fathers say they would prefer to work less hours. Among fathers working 55 hours or more a week, 61% wanted fewer hours.

Family separation can have a major impact on a mother’s employment, with single mothers with children under five having a 34% employment rate compared to a partnered mothers’ employment rate of 51%.

Australian women leave full-time work between the ages of 30-34 to have children, when their part-time employment rate increases to 40%. The majority of part-time employed women do not prefer more hours. However, one in four women working fewer than 16 hours a week say they would prefer to work more.

The snapshot, which draws data from the 2006 Census, the ABS Time Use Survey and labour force data, the OECD Employment Outlook, the AIFS Growing up in Australia longitudinal study and Family Matters, reveals:

  • The employment rate of women aged 20-24 is 73% and drops to 69% between the ages of 30-39, climbing back up to 77% between the ages of 45 and 49
  • The employment rate for men between the ages of 20-24 is 79% going to 90% for men aged 30-34 and remains stable into their 40s
  • 45% of mothers have returned to work by the time their children are aged between 12 and14 months
  • 41% of Australian women work part-time compared to just 16% of Australian men.

“Both paid employment and family responsibilities are a part of many people’s lives. The nature of these varies across the life course. Changes in life stage, such as the birth of a child or the need to care for a sick family member often requires adjustments be made to paid employment,” Dr Gray said.

“The more we know about the strategies people use to manage this balance, the better informed we will be in developing appropriate policies that help families at all stages of life,” he said. 

Snapshot brochure: Work and family responsibilities through life, Australian Institute of Family Studies

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