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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1994  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/05/1994   
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Contents >> Family >> Living Arrangements: Lone fathers with dependant children

Living Arrangements: Lone fathers with dependant children

In 1993, 12% of lone parents with dependant children were men.

Until relatively recently, lone fathers were an almost invisible minority (less than 1%) of parents. It was not until 1978, with the introduction of the Supporting Parents' Benefit, that government financial assistance was made available for lone fathers on the same basis as it was available for lone mothers. Assistance for lone mothers had first been introduced in 1942 as the Widows' (Class A) Pension. This covered widows who were maintaining at least one child under 16 years of age. However, the definition of widows was very broad and included de facto widows, deserted wives and divorced women who had not remarried. Subsequent amendments, most notably in 1974 when the Supporting Mothers' Benefit was introduced, extended the coverage to include deserted de facto wives, unmarried mothers and other lone mothers who had not previously been eligible for a Widows' (Class A) Pension1.

In 1993, there were 418,000 lone parents with dependant children, 17% of all parents with dependants. 48,000 (12%) of these lone parents were lone fathers. The number of lone fathers increased by 20% (8,000) between 1986 and 1993, compared to increases of 7% in the number of partnered fathers and 32% in the number of lone mothers2.

PARENTS WITH DEPENDANTS

1986
1993
1993



Lone fathers
Married fathers
Lone fathers
Married fathers
Lone mothers
Married mothers
Age group (years)
%
%
%
%
%
%

Parent
    15-24
* *
2.5
3.5
2.1
12.1
4.8
    25-34
23.3
31.6
14.9
27.4
35.2
35.8
    35-44
40.8
42.3
43.3
42.9
37.0
43.2
    45-54
25.2
18.3
30.4
23.0
14.0
14.7
    55 and over
* *
5.2
7.9
4.6
1.7
1.5
    Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Youngest dependant
    0-4
13.6
42.3
12.5
42.2
34.4
42.2
    5-9
19.3
23.1
20.9
22.6
27.1
22.6
    10-14
37.2
22.9
38.3
20.2
22.9
20.2
    15-24
29.8
11.7
28.2
15.0
15.5
15.0
    Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total
40.3
1,901.1
48.3
2,035.2
369.3
1,971.9

Source: Labour Force Survey

One parent families with dependant children

Families in which there is a family head together with at least one dependant son or daughter of his/her own. Some of these families may also contain non-dependant children or other related adults.

Dependant children are defined as being:
  • family members under 15 years of age;
  • family members aged 15-19 years and attending school;
  • family members aged 15-24 years attending a tertiary education institution full-time, except those classified as husbands, wives, lone parents or other family heads.


Family profile
In general, lone fathers are older than partnered fathers and have older dependent children. The median age of lone fathers in 1993 was 42 years compared to a median age of 39 years for partnered fathers. Lone fathers were also generally older than lone mothers. The median age of lone mothers was 35 years.

The proportion of lone fathers in older age groups is increasing. In 1986, 25% of lone fathers were aged 45-54 years; by 1993 this had risen to 30%. In contrast, the proportion of lone fathers aged 25-34 years decreased over the same period, from 23% in 1986 to 15% in 1993. The age structure of partnered fathers showed a similar trend. Between 1986 and 1993, the proportion aged 45-54 years increased from 18% to 23%, and the proportion aged 25-34 years decreased from 32% to 27%.

In 1993, about one-third of lone fathers had responsibility for a child aged less than 10 years compared to nearly two-thirds of other parents. On the other hand, lone fathers were almost twice as likely as other parents to have only 15-24 year old dependants living at home, 28% compared to 15%.

The proportions of lone fathers and lone mothers who were separated or divorced were similar in 1991 (66% and 63% respectively)3. However, lone fathers were more likely than lone mothers to have been widowed (12% compared to 8%), while lone mothers were more likely to have never been married (23% compared to 10%).

Labour force status
Lone fathers have a lower labour force participation rate than partnered fathers (77% compared to 94% in 1993), and a higher unemployment rate (16% compared to 8%). Of fathers who were employed, lone fathers were almost three times as likely as partnered fathers to work part-time (11% compared to 4%).

In comparison with lone mothers, lone fathers had a higher labour force participation rate and a slightly lower unemployment rate. If employed, however, lone mothers were four times as likely as lone fathers to work part-time.

In 1990, a smaller proportion of lone fathers were dependent on government pensions and benefits as their main source of income than of lone mothers (44% compared to 64%), largely reflecting their greater labour force participation4. Consequently, lone fathers had higher median weekly incomes than lone mothers, $346 compared to $273.

LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION OF PARENTS WITH DEPENDANTS, 1993

Lone fathers
Married fathers
Lone mothers
Married mothers
Labour force participation
'000
'000
'000
'000

Employed full-time
28.1
1,679.5
84.6
474.0
Employed part-time
3.5
73.3
73.1
621.4
Unemployed
5.9
154.3
33.7
88.0
Not in the labour force
10.9
128.2
177.9
788.5
Total
48.3
2,035.0
369.0
1,972.0
%
%
%
%
Labour force participation rate
77.5
93.7
51.8
60.0
Unemployment rate
15.8
8.1
17.6
7.4

Source: Labour Force Survey


Housing
Lone parents are more likely to rent their accommodation than partnered parents. In 1991, 55% of one parent families were renting a home compared to 21% of two parent families. Lone fathers were less likely than lone mothers to have been renting (41% compared to 57%) with most of the difference being in the proportion who were renting public accommodation.

One parent families usually have fewer earners and hence lower incomes than couple families. As a consequence, one parent families generally spend a greater proportion of their income on housing (22% in 1990) than two parent families (14%). Reflecting their higher incomes, lone fathers spent a slightly smaller proportion of their incomes on housing than lone mothers in 1990.

NATURE OF OCCUPANCY OF FAMILIES WITH DEPENDANTS, 1991

One parent families

Male
Female
Total
Two parent families
Nature of occupancy
%
%
%
%

Owner
25.8
18.4
19.4
32.4
Purchaser
33.3
24.4
25.6
46.7
Government renter
12.6
26.0
24.2
6.0
Other renter
28.4
31.2
30.9
15.0
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

Source: Census of Population and Housing

PROPORTION OF GROSS WEEKLY INCOME SPENT ON HOUSING BY FAMILIES WITH DEPENDANTS, 1990


Source: Survey of Income & Housing Costs and Amenities


Endnotes
1 Kewley, T.H. (1980) Australian Social Security Today: major developments from 1900 to 1978 Sydney University Press.

2 Unless otherwise stated statistics presented in this review are drawn from the Labour Force Survey.

3 Census of Population and Housing.

4 Survey of Income & Housing Costs and Amenities.



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