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Pushing Uphill – Working parents struggling to keep up, new HILDA report finds

The picture is fairly bleak. Dual income households are on the rise, traditional gender roles are remaining much the same, the cost of childcare is huge, and our mums and dads are feeling more stressed than ever, according to the latest HILDA survey results released yesterday.

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey is a household-based panel study that collects valuable information about economic and personal well-being, labour market dynamics and family life. It follows the lives of more than 17,000 Australians in 9,500 households each year over the course of their lives. It’s a powerful reflection of the health of our communities and homes, to say the least.

So what has the 2019 survey revealed?

Stay at home dads are still well and truly in the minority, and women are still doing most of the unpaid work

In opposite-sex couples, the conventional labour split still exists, with women staying at home to look after the children while men go to work. In the rare cases where women are the main breadwinner, they earn a lower income than men and are less likely to work fulltime.

And even when women are the main income earners for their households, their male partners are not taking on most of the domestic labour. Men performed an average of five hours less housework and eight hours less child care in households where women were the primary earner.

The survey also found that even when women are the family breadwinners, it’s only for a short time, with 60% remaining in that position five years later compared to 80% of male breadwinners.

Childcare costs are putting working parents at a disadvantage

The cost of childcare has risen by 145% since 2002, from $62 in 2002/03 to $153 in 2016/17. These costs are taking up on average 27% of the average household budget. Compare this to Sweden, where childcare takes up about 5% of the household income, and you’ll realise why Australian parents are struggling with the costs. The survey found that the majority of Australian parents have experienced childcare difficulties over the past year, and the costs of childcare are an increasing stress for them.

Both mums and dads are dealing with work/life conflict

The survey found that dads with two kids spend the most time commuting, with the average commute of those in the capital cities being about 66 minutes per day. These long-commuting dads are also likely to be among the most unhappy with their job, pay and work-life balance. Unfortunately, the number of women with high ‘work-life conflict’ has risen since 2001, and the study found that the longer hours a parent works, the higher their work-family conflict score.

What can we do about it?

So the data is right there in front us – Australian parents are struggling with being able to balance and enjoy both their careers and family lives. This is why it’s crucial that government and company policy changes to accommodate the growing and changing needs of the modern working family. Inadequate policies and practices supporting parents and carers only means that families keep struggling. Our mums and dads are stressed, but more family-friendly policies and a culture that accommodates the needs of a working parent can help to empower working Australian mums and dads in all aspects of their lives.

The National Working Families Survey finishes at the end of tomorrow (31st July 2019), and we encourage all to have your say. This is why this survey is so important – we need to hear your voices, to know what you need to feel better supported in your family life and work life. Tell us exactly what you want and need.

Working dads, we especially need to hear from you. Contribute your voice and share your experience, and help define future Australian policy for families.

Take the survey here.

Excerpts for article taken from:

Childcare costs are an increasing stress for parents – now’s the time for good policy making – Women’s Agenda

Women breadwinners still doing most of the housework – SMH

New survey reveals suburban dads are the unhappiest in Australia – News.com.au