Families and work

Balancing in a bubble

In search of an idea for a post, I went looking on the ABS website for statistics about women and work. I got sidetracked into this fascinating summary of lots of different research they’ve done into work, families and childcare.

I was particularly struck by a graph that shows the combined weekly hours worked by both parents (where there are two). Not so much by the information in the graph itself (although that was really interesting), but by the mindset that it is important to look at the total amount of work that happens in a household and how it is shared. I’m inclined to think (from the position of someone who works 45 or so of the 60 hours worked for pay in this household) that the best outcome is for the total work of this household to be about 30 hours – shared 50/50. But I know that’s not going to happen.

Other interesting snippets:

– 70% of families with children under five had a total paid working hours of less than 60 hours a week (with 3% being over 100 hours a week!)
– 33% of fathers working full time used flexible working arrangements to help themselves care for children – mostly flexible working hours (70% of mothers did the same)
– 40% of fathers and 44% of mothers are entitled to paid paternity/maternity leave
– 72% of public sector employees and 36% of private sector employees are entitled to paid parental leave
– Since 1986, women’s participation in the labour force has gone up from 61% to 70% between the ages of 25 and 34 (but the study links to another study that points out that the proportionof women aged 25 to 29 without children has increased from 40% to 53% between 1986 and 1996)

Any conclusions?

Australia as it is today is a society where some of us are working more hours than ever before (in 1994 we had more men working more than 45 hours a week than any country than the UK, and more women than any country than Japan), but there does seem to be genuine progress in sharing the load between men and women. It’s glacial, but it’s there. I’m increasingly thinking that a tipping point may start to come. It’s anecdotal, but there are a lot more stay at home dads around, at least where I live.