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Fathers' Work and Family Balance
FATHERS AND FAMILIES
In 2003, there were over 5.5 million families in Australia and 87% of the population lived in a family household. Despite the growing numbers of couples without children (including those whose children have left home) and one-parent families in Australia, families consisting of a father, mother and child(ren) aged less than 15 years are still relatively common, accounting for around one-third (1.7 million) of all families in 2003.
In total, there were around 1.8 million fathers living with their children aged less than 15 years in 2003. Almost all (97%) of these fathers were in couple families, with the remaining 3% (or 58,000) being lone fathers.
Of the 3.9 million children aged less than 15 years in 2003, 80% lived with both a father and mother, 2% were in lone father families and 18% were in lone mother families. Among the 3.2 million children who lived with a father, 95% were with a natural father, while 5% lived with a step father.
FAMILY TYPE OF FATHERS WITH CHILDREN AGED 0–14 years — SELECTED YEARS
AGE OF FATHERS
The age profile of fathers has been changing. Just as there has been a trend for delaying births by women, men have also been delaying parenthood.(EndNote 2) Additionally, some men may appear to arrive late to fatherhood due to starting a second family with a different partner. Most noticeable is the fall in the proportion of fathers in the younger age groups and the rise in the proportion of fathers in the older age groups.
In 1992, around one-third (35%) of fathers in families with children aged 0–14 years were aged less than 35 years. This proportion had fallen to little over one-quarter (26%) by 2003. Just under half (48%) of all fathers of children in this age range were aged 35–44 years old in 2003, similar to the proportion in 1992 (46%). The proportion of fathers aged 45 years and over increased from 19% in 1992 to 25% in 2003.
AGE OF FATHERS IN FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN AGED 0–14
LABOUR FORCE ARRANGEMENTS OF PARENTS IN COUPLE FAMILIES (a) BY AGE OF YOUNGEST CHILD — 2003
FATHERS AS INCOME EARNERS
In 2003 in couple families with children aged under 15 years, fathers were more likely than mothers to be employed (91% compared with 62% respectively) and more likely to be employed full-time (84% compared with 24%).
The higher levels of engagement in employment seen among fathers reflects the divisions of couples' time between paid employment and caring/domestic activities. Employment dynamics within couple families are closely related to the age of the youngest child in the household. Mothers' employment patterns in particular are linked with the age of the youngest child while, overall, fathers' working patterns vary only slightly.
Nearly half (47%) of all families where the age of the youngest child was 0–2 years had only the father employed, compared with 17% where the youngest child was aged 12–14 years. Correspondingly, the tendency for both parents to be employed increased with age of youngest child from 45% in families with children aged 0–2 years to 71% in families where the age of the youngest child was 12–14 years.
While mothers' employment levels (both part-time and full-time) increased with the age of their youngest child, fathers' employment levels for both full-time and part-time work remained virtually unchanged for all age-groups of youngest child under 15 years.
NOT EMPLOYED FATHERS IN COUPLE FAMILIES(a) — 2003
STAY AT HOME FATHERS
Of the 1.7 million couple families with children aged 0–14 years in June 2003, there were 57,900 (or 3.4%) families where the father was not employed while mothers worked either full-time or part-time. A further 108,100 (or 6.3%) couple families with children aged less than 15 years had neither parent working.
Some couples may choose to have the father stay at home to undertake principal caring roles for children. For other couples, circumstances such as unemployment or an inability participate in the labour force (e.g. through disability) may necessitate the father staying at home. In September 2003, some 47,500 fathers (or 29% of those who were not employed) stated that they did not want to work. A greater majority (62%) did want to work and these included: 47,300 (29%) who were actively looking for paid work, 49,100 (30%) fathers who wanted to work but were not actively looking and a small number (4,200 or 3%) who wanted to work and were looking, but were not able to start. Fathers who were permanently unable to work made up 14,700 (9.0%) of the fathers that were not employed.
FATHERS' WORKING HOURS
In 2004–05, there was an annual average of 1.6 million employed fathers and 1.3 million employed mothers with children under the age of 15 years within both couple families and one-parent families. In these families, the vast majority (93%) of fathers who were employed worked full-time while most employed mothers worked part-time (60%).
Research has shown that fathers are expressing a desire for greater involvement with their children, (EndNote 1) and children would also prefer more time with their working fathers.(EndNote 4)
The proportion of employed fathers with children who work part-time, while low compared with mothers, has increased from 4% in June 1994 to almost 7% in June 2005. Yet fathers working full-time have maintained their working hours at around 42 to 43 hours per week on average over the 15 years to 2004–05. One-third (33%) of fathers working full-time in 2004–05 worked 50 hours or more per week, while 16% worked for 60 hours or more.
In many cases, working overtime contributes to the large number of hours worked. The proportion of fathers working regular overtime has increased from 46% in August 1993 to 50% in November 2003. Fathers had twice the level of regular overtime compared with mothers (24%).(EndNote 5) Given the vast majority (90%) of people working regular overtime in November 2003 were full-time employees, the higher proportion among fathers is partially explained by the higher proportion of fathers in full-time employment.
...PREFERENCE FOR WORKING HOURS
There were similarities in preferences for working hours between those fathers and mothers who worked full-time and who had primary school aged children. In November 2003, fathers who worked full-time were mainly satisfied with the hours they worked (56%) as were full-time working mothers (55%). Full-time working fathers and mothers also had similar levels of preference for working fewer hours (38% and 40% respectively).
Of the fathers working part-time, nearly half (47%) would have preferred to work more hours while just over one-fifth (22%) of mothers working part-time wanted more hours. That being said, just under half (45%) of fathers and two-thirds (67%) of mothers working part-time were satisfied with the hours they worked and did not want to change their hours.
PREFERENCE FOR WORKING HOURS OF PARENTS WITH CHILDREN AGED UNDER 12 YEARS — November 2003
FATHERS AND FLEXIBLE WORK ARRANGEMENTS
Employers and workplaces are increasingly acknowledging that workers need to be able to balance the demands of both the workplace and the family, including caring for children. A range of flexible working arrangements have been introduced over time to help parents with the work/family balancing act. Flexible work arrangements used by parents to help with the care of their children include flexible work hours, permanent part-time work and working at home.(EndNote 6)
In 1993, the option to work extra hours in order to take time off was available to 36% of fathers employed full-time with children under the age of 12 years. By 2002, this had increased to 45%. At the same time, 40% of full-time working fathers with children under the age of 12 years had flexible start and finish times, while 29% were able to choose their start and finish times on a day-to-day basis.
Although flexible work arrangements may be available to many employees, fathers may feel economic or social pressure not to use them.(EndNote 1) In 2002, 30% of fathers used some form of flexible working arrangements to help care for their children aged less than 12 years. This was an increase from 24% in 1993. In contrast, 70% of working mothers used flexible work arrangements in 2002.
Working fathers tended to use different flexible work arrangements to care for children than working mothers. The most frequently used arrangements used by fathers in 2002 were flexible working hours (22%) followed by working from home (9%).
Working fathers had lower levels of use of each of the flexible arrangements than working mothers. The arrangement with the greatest difference was the use of permanent part-time work. Part-time work is one of the most popular methods of balancing paid work and family commitments used by working mothers (35%) but is rarely used by fathers (3%).
SELECTED WORKING ARRANGEMENTS AVAILABLE TO EMPLOYED PARENTS WITH CHILDREN AGED UNDER 12 YEARS — 1991 and 2003
WORKING ARRANGEMENTS USED BY PARENTS TO HELP CARE FOR THEIR CHILDREN AGED UNDER 12 — Selected years