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Australian attitudes to gender roles are becoming more progressive, but these views are not translating into real change in the home and workplace, according to the latest release of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey.
Compiled by the Melbourne Institute, Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne, the latest HILDA Survey reveals Australian incomes are stabilizing and we have a better educated population (especially women).
However, there is inequality among seniors, higher house prices are leaving younger people renting and women are still taking a heavier load of housework and childcare. The report also questions widespread commentary about the rise of the gig economy.
A lifetime study
The Housing Income and Labour Dynamics Survey (HILDA) covers more than 17 000 people across Australia each year. It collects information about household and family relationships, income and employment and health and education and follows participants over their lifetime. It’s the only study of its kind in Australia. The HILDA Survey is funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services.
Work, income, spending
HILDA found the median household income increased 1.8 per cent in 2016 to $79,244, little changed from 2009. Women work more than men at 56 hours a week (25 hours in paid work, 20 hours on housework, 11 hours on care), compared with 53.4 hours for men (36 hours in paid work, 13.4 hours on housework, 5.4 hours on care). About 32 per cent of people received a welfare payment during 2016, little changed since 2009.
Housework and care
Women, according to the HILDA results, still do the lion’s share of housework and care – they spend 13 hours more than men each week doing unpaid work, while men spend 11 hours more on paid employment.
This traditional gendered divide becomes more apparent when children enter the picture, with women’s share of the couple’s time spent on paid employment dropping to only 14 per cent right after birth. This share sits at around 23 per cent in the five years after the first child is born, and reaches just 30 per cent ten years after the birth.
The study found that children in single parent families are almost three times more likely to be in poverty than children in coupled families. The share of income spent on child care is rising; this is most acutely felt among low-income households.
Views becoming less traditional
Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research academic Inga Lass – the report’s co-author – said this is despite Australians becoming less traditional in our views of gender roles.
“We found men and women are increasingly disagreeing with statements about traditional gender arrangements of parenting and work,” Dr Lass said.
“Women in de facto relationships were the least likely to be in favour of traditional gender arrangements, while married men were the most likely to be in favour of such arrangements.
“There is also a significant discrepancy between the way women and men envision a fair share of work. HILDA shows most women feel overburdened by household chores, while most men think they do their fair share.”
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Workplace gender inequality
Melbourne Institute Deputy Director and report co-author Roger Wilkins said continuing gender inequality in the home is reflected in the workplace. Professor Wilkins said the gender pay gap has only narrowed slightly, despite more women entering full-time work.
He said women are also becoming more educated: the number of women who hold post-school qualifications has increased 25.7 percentage points, and in 2016 more women than men held a university degree.
Women and Men
“Despite much public discussion about improving the lot of women in Australia, on many measures there has been relatively little progress this century,” Professor Wilkins said.
There is a clear gender divide in financial literacy: in response to a series of financial literacy questions, 49.9 percent of males answered all five questions correctly, compared with 35.4 percent of females.
Among 25 to 34-year-olds the proportion of women with a bachelor degree or higher qualification is up to 44 per cent from 28 per cent in 2001, compared with a rise among men from 26 per cent to 31 percent.
Renters face financial stress
This year’s report highlights the plight of renters. It shows more Australians are renting, except for people aged 15-24, who are remaining in the parental home longer.
The proportion of renters becoming homeowners fell sharply for 18 to 24 and 35 to 44-year-olds . The proportion of people under stress from housing costs (mortgages and rents) fell to 9.6 percent from 11.2 percent in 2012 but housing stress is higher among renters at 20 per cent
“Renters, especially younger ones, are finding it more difficult to own a home. Over the survey period the number of renters aged between 18 to 24 transitioning into home ownership dropped from 13.5 percent to 7.6 percent,” Professor Wilkins said. “Private renters are also considerably more at risk of financial stress, especially compared with outright homeowners, who, unsurprisingly, are the least at risk.”
Mythical gig economy
The report also questions widespread commentary about the rise of the gig economy. It shows rates of self-employment have been in marked decline over the life of the survey.
“The self-employed are also more likely to fail than succeed. For example, among those starting their own business between 2001 and 2006, only 50 per cent were still in business a year later,” Professor Wilkins said.
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