More support for working families: AIFS study
The Sector > Research > Gender divide findings sees advocates calling for more support for working families

Gender divide findings sees advocates calling for more support for working families

by Freya Lucas

May 14, 2024

A national survey conducted by Parents At Work and UNICEF Australia has shed light on the continuing gender divide in working families, providing further evidence that employers need to better support working parents to achieve work-life balance.


Commissioned by Parents at Work and UNICEF Australia, the survey found that over 74 per cent of women felt stressed balancing work and family commitments, compared to 57 per cent of men – a marked increase from the 51 per cent of women and 34 per cent of men who reported feeling stressed in 2019.


The study also revealed that women bear the majority of care and household duties, and that gender norms continue to underpin family-friendly policies and workplace attitudes.


“I’ve been researching the lives of working parents for many years, and it’s disappointing that many of the same issues are still present, despite many workplaces making genuine attempts to improve flexibility and work-life balance,” Executive Manager, Families, Society and Lifecourse at the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), Dr Jennifer Baxter, said.


When these recent results are coupled with previous findings in her own research at AIFS, the latest data shows employers still have a long way to go to support working parents and carers to achieve work-life balance, she added.


“Developing policies that enable both fathers and mothers to play an active role in caring for their children, and doing the hard work of running the home, has to be a top priority for employers. For the benefit of working parents and their children, but also for the benefit of their own bottom line.”


The findings are supported by earlier AIFS research into couple families, including a 2021 report on sharing housework, and another in 2023 into the take-up of parental leave pay.


An AIFS report published in 2021 found a gendered distribution of housework within opposite-sex couples. In 42 per cent of couple families household tasks were always or usually done by the female – whereas in only 10 per cent they were always or usually done by the male.


74 per cent of males were satisfied with the way household tasks were divided, compared to 52 per cent of females. Dissatisfaction among females was particularly apparent in families in which both partners worked fulltime and the female usually or always did more housework.


Another AIFS report, published in 2023, looked into patterns of use of Parental Leave Pay (PLP) and Dad and Partner Pay (DAPP) and showed a very gendered pattern to the use of these payments, indicating a significant gap between males and females in primary care-giving in the first year of their child’s life.


At the time of the 2021 Census about 20 per cent of mothers of a child under one year of age were using PLP, while DAPP was utilised by around 1 per cent of new fathers.


The AIFS will publish a report next month which looks into the division of child care in the home, which will indicate that 54 per cent of couple households looking after children is always or usually done by the mother – and in 78 per cent the ‘mental load’ is always or usually done by the mother.


Full results of the National Working Families Survey can be found on the The National Working Families Report website.

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