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1383.0.55.001 - Measures of Australia's Progress: Summary Indicators, 2009  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/04/2009   
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FAMILY, COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL COHESION

Children aged under 15 years without an employed parent
Line graph: children without an employed parent, year ended 30 June, 1996 to 2006

For technical information see Endnote 1.
Source: ABS data available on request, Surveys of Income and Housing

Since the mid-1990s, the proportion of children aged under 15 years living without an employed parent in the same household has varied between 15% to 19%, and has been 16% or less since 2002-03. In 2005-06, 607,000 children lived without an employed co-resident parent and around 69% of these lived in one-parent families (Endnote 1).

Between 2000 and 2006, the proportion of people aged 18 years and over who reported that they did some voluntary work during the previous 12 months increased from 32% to 35% (Endnote 2). While the volunteer rate increased, the amount of time volunteers gave decreased. The median annual hours contributed by volunteers fell from 72 hours per person in 2000 to 56 hours per person in 2006.

ABOUT THESE INDICATORS

Family and community are important aspects of society, but the way in which they contribute to progress is difficult to define and measure, and so there is no single indicator that captures all that might be important. The effective functioning of families and communities depends on a wide range of factors. For example, the quality and strength of people's relationships and bonds with others - their family, friends and the wider community - are important elements which contribute to social cohesion. A more cohesive society is one in which communities are strong and inclusive, in which inequalities are reduced and people have a sense of belonging. The decline or absence of support from people’s families and communities can contribute to a range of social problems such as poverty, illiteracy, ill-health and social exclusion.

While there is no single headline indicator to measure progress in this dimension, two aspects of family and community life are presented.

Children living in a household without a co-resident employed parent may be at greater risk of experiencing financial hardship, and lack of employment within the family may also impact on children's long-term personal development. It is important to note however that children living without a co-resident employed parent do not always experience adverse outcomes (Endnote 3).

The vast range of services provided within communities by groups, clubs and charitable organisations are a crucial adjunct to the care provided by families and the more formal types of support provided by governments. Community bonds can be strengthened through volunteering and donating money to groups and organisations in the community. Giving time to do some work for an organisation or group might be regarded as one of the stronger expressions of social capital, as it involves giving help and provides opportunities for community engagement.

SEE ALSO

Family, community and social cohesion - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2006
Themes - Family and Community Statistics
Strengthening communities, supporting families and social inclusion - Final report of the 2020 Summit, April 2008

ENDNOTES

1. Children aged under 15 years living in families where no resident parent is employed - of all children under 15 years. No survey was conducted in 1998-99 and 2001-02 and 2004-05.

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007, Voluntary Work, Australia, 2006, cat. no. 4441.0, ABS, Canberra.

As a result of improvements to the survey, estimates of volunteering for 2006 place a greater emphasis on work 'voluntarily undertaken' than previously. The standard estimate of 34% excludes for example community work undertaken as part of work for the dole, a student placement or a community service order. The estimate of 35% presented above does not make these adjustments and is consistent with data from 2000. For more detailed information, see comparison table A2 and the discussion in the appendix in the publication. Note also that these estimates are from the 2006 General Social Survey which was designed to provide a detailed account of volunteers and their volunteering activities. As such its results will be different (and more accurate) than those available from other sources including the 2006 Census of Population and Housing. The census data is useful, however, for comparing the characteristics of volunteers at the small area level.

3. See for example: Dawkins, P, Gregg, P, & Scutella, R 2001, The Growth of Jobless Households in Australia, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, viewed 4 March 2007; and Gregory, R 1999, Children and the Changing Labour Market: Joblessness in Families with Dependent Children, Discussion Paper No. 406, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra, viewed 5 March 2007.

LINK TO THE DETAILED SUMMARY

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