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4156.0.55.001 - Perspectives on Sport, June 2013  
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WOMEN IN SPORT: THE STATE OF PLAY 2013


INTRODUCTION

The individual benefits of participating in sport and physical recreation are well documented. Engaging in regular physical activity, even of moderate intensity, can reduce the risk of developing a range of adverse medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease, colon and breast cancers, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity and injury. Being physically active can also assist in managing stress, depression and anxiety, and in enhancing mental alertness (Endnote 1).

Yet an increasing proportion of Australia's population remain physically inactive, overweight or obese. Results from the ABS 2011-12 National Health Survey show that 63% of Australians aged 18 years and over were either overweight or obese. This compares with 61% in 2007-08 and 56% in 1995 (Endnote 2).

Increasing physical activity through participation in sport and physical recreation will not only result in improvements to individual health, but could also translate to significant health cost savings for the community. Research shows that for every 1% increase in moderate physical activity in the Australian population, 122 deaths per year from coronary heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer would be avoided. This would save the Australian health care system around $3.6 million per year (Endnote 3).

Furthermore, in addition to these obvious health benefits, sport and recreation can also provide societal and community benefits through increased social interaction and integration. Over the past decade there has been a growing body of research examining the role of sport in creating 'social capital', focussing not only on participation but on other forms of sports engagement, including facilitating and watching sport (Endnote 4). Involvement in sport at this broader level - whether it be as a volunteer coach, referee/umpire, administrator or a spectator - can help reinforce social networks and sustain community interaction.

In May 2009 the ABS published an article on 'Women in Sport' as part of its Perspectives on Sport series. The article presented data on female participation in sport and physical activity, females as spectators at sporting events, and female volunteers in sport. In this 2013 update we will again examine the role of women in the three general forms of sports engagement - playing, facilitating and watching sport - using updated statistics from a range of ABS surveys and 2011 Census data. Specifically this article will examine:

  • Female participation in sport and physical activity - as players, competitors or taking part in some other physically active role
  • Female involvement in organised sport - including in a non-playing role
  • Females as spectators at sporting events
  • Female employment in sport
  • Female volunteers in sport.


FEMALE PARTICIPATION IN SPORT AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

In this article the term 'participant' is defined as a player, competitor or person who takes part in some other physically active role. Persons who are involved solely in a non-playing role, such as a coach, referee or club official, are not defined as 'participants' and therefore not included in this section of the article.

Information on participation was most recently collected in the 2011-12 Multi-Purpose Household Survey (MPHS) and was published in Participation in Sports and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4177.0). The MPHS gathered data about the number and characteristics of people aged 15 years and over who participated in a range of sports and physical recreational activities in the 12 months prior to interview.


How many females participate in sport and physical recreation in Australia?

Nearly 64% of females aged 15 years and over (around 5.8 million females) reported that they had participated in sport and physical recreation at least once during the 12 months prior to interview in 2011-12.

Compared with 2009-10, the female participation rate in 2011-12 was slightly higher (64% compared with 63%) although there is not enough evidence that this difference is statistically significant.

In 2011-12, the number of females participating in non-organised activities (i.e. those activities not organised by a club or recreation association) was 4.7 million (or 51%). This was almost double that for participation in organised activities (2.4 million or 27%).

Female Participants, Sport and physical recreation - By type of participation: Australia - 2011-12

Number
Participation rate
'000
%

Total organised participation
2 428.1
26.5
Total non-organised participation
4 703.4
51.4
Total participation(a)
5 840.6
63.8

(a) Components do not add to totals as some persons may have participated in both types of participation.
Source: Participation in Sports and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4177.0)



How often do females participate in sport and physical recreation activities?

Of the 5.8 million females who participated in sport and physical recreation in the 12 months prior to interview, over half (55% or 3.2 million) participated 105 times or more (i.e. on average at least twice a week). This included the number of times spent training and practising for an activity.

Female Participants, Sport and physical recreation - By regularity of participation: Australia - 2011-12





How do female participation rates vary across age groups, between geographic areas, and between different socio-economic groups?

For females in the 15-17 and 25-34 age groups, participation rates were 70%. Participation rates generally declined with increasing age. Females in the 35-44 age group had a participation rate of 68%. The lowest participation rate was for females aged 65 years and over (48% or 758,600 females).

Female Participants, Sport and physical recreation - By age: Australia - 2011-12




In 2011-12 the Australian Capital Territory had the highest participation rate for females (79%) and Queensland had the lowest (60%). There was very little difference between the participation rates of females living in capital cities and those living in the rest of the state (65% and 62% respectively).

Female Participants, Sport and physical recreation - By state or territory - 2011-12




Population surveys conducted in Australia and internationally have shown that people who are socially or economically disadvantaged are less likely to engage in specific activities and are more likely to be sedentary in their leisure time (Endnote 1). For most physical activities there is a clear socio-economic gradient, and this is particularly evident in levels of education. Studies have shown that those who did not complete school have lower participation rates in a range of physical activities compared with those who were tertiary educated (Endnote 1).

For females this was clearly evident in data for 2011-12. Females with Postgraduate degrees had participation rates of 80%. In comparison, the participation rate for those females whose highest educational attainment was Year 11 was 62%.

Female Participants, Sport and physical recreation - By highest educational attainment: Australia - 2011-12




A similar pattern is evident when examining participation rates among females across different equivalised income groups. Equivalising adjusts actual income to take into account the different needs of households of different sizes and compositions, so 'equivalised household income' can be seen as an indicator of the economic resources available to each member of the household. In 2011-12, 46% of females receiving the lowest 20% of equivalised weekly household income participated in sport and physical recreation. Generally, participation rates increased with each successive quintile, and in the highest quintile, over 80% of females participated in sport and physical recreation.

Female participants, Sport and physical recreation - By equivalised weekly household income: Australia - 2011-12





How many sports do females undertake?

The majority of female participants (3.3 million or 57%) undertook just one sport or physical activity in the last 12 months, with 26% (1.5 million) participating in two activities and 17% (971,000) participating in three or more activities.

Female participants, Sport and physical recreation - By number of sports or physical recreation activities participated in: Australia - 2011-12






What are the most popular sports and physical activities undertaken by females in Australia?

The most popular sport or physical activity for females in 2011-12 was Walking for exercise, with 2.8 million females in Australia (48% of female participants) undertaking this activity. Fitness/Gym was the second most popular activity among females, involving 1.7 million females (30% of female participants).

In terms of the total female population 15 years and over, 30% undertook Walking for exercise in 2011-12 and 19% undertook Fitness/Gym activities.

The top ten sports and physical recreation activities participated in by females in 2011-12 are presented in the following table.

Female Participants, Sports and physical recreation - Top ten sports and physical recreation activities: Australia - 2011-12

Activity
Number
Participation rate
Proportion of participants
Rank
'000
%
%

1
Walking for exercise
2 784.7
30.4
47.7
2
Fitness/Gym
1 745.7
19.1
29.9
3
Swimming/Diving
729.2
8.0
12.5
4
Jogging/Running
585.4
6.4
10.0
5
Cycling/BMXing
490.6
5.4
8.4
6
Netball
410.5
4.5
7.0
7
Tennis
314.2
3.3
5.4
8
Yoga
298.9
3.3
5.1
9
Dancing/Ballet
229.1
2.5
3.9
10
Bush walking
216.8
2.4
3.7

Source: Participation in Sports and Physical Recreation, Australia, 2011-12 (cat. no. 4177.0)





FEMALE INVOLVEMENT IN ORGANISED SPORT AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

Data on the number of females involved in non-playing roles in organised sport and physical activity was most recently collected as part of the 2010 survey of Involvement in Organised Sport and Physical Activity, conducted throughout Australia as part of the ABS Monthly Population Survey (MPS). Results from this survey have been published in Involvement in Organised Sport and Physical Activity, Australia, April 2010 (cat. no. 6285.0).


How many females are involved in non-playing roles in organised sport?

In 2010, an estimated 343,100 females (4% of females over 15 years of age) were involved in organised sport or physical activities in a non-playing capacity only. A further 391,600 females (4%) were involved in both a playing and non-playing capacity (in total, 8% in non-playing roles).


What are the types of roles females undertake in organised sport, in a non-playing capacity?

Of the estimated 734,700 females who were involved in either a non-playing capacity only or in both a playing and non-playing capacity:
  • 273,000 were involved as a coach, instructor or teacher
  • 264,300 were involved as a scorer or timekeeper
  • 256,500 were involved as a committee member or administrator
  • 115,100 were involved as a referee or umpire
  • 60,000 provided medical support.
Females involved in non-playing role, Organised sport and physical activity - By type of role: Australia - 2010

Graph: Females involved in non-playing role, Organised sport and physical activity—By type of role: Australia—2010


Of all females involved in non-playing roles, 40% reported that they had completed a course or qualification relevant to their role. Of those females undertaking a medical support role, 96% completed a relevant course or qualification. This compared with:
  • 60% of female coaches, instructors and teachers
  • 52% of female referees or umpires
  • 17% of female committee members or administrators.

In 2010, 20% of females involved in a non-playing role had some paid involvement.


FEMALES AS SPECTATORS AT SPORTING EVENTS

Information on the number of persons aged 15 years and over who attended sporting events as spectators (excluding junior and school sport) was collected as part of the 2009-10 Multi-Purpose Household Survey (MPHS). The results were published in Spectator Attendance at Sporting Events, Australia (cat. no. 4174.0).


How many females attend a sporting event in Australia?

In 2009-10, an estimated 3.3 million females attended one or more sporting events as spectators. This represented 37% of females aged 15 years and over in Australia in 2009-10.

For females aged 15-17 years, the attendance rate was 54% in 2009-10. Attendance rates generally declined with increasing age. The attendance rate for females aged 65 years and over was less than 20%.

Females Attending Sporting Events, By age: Australia - 2009-10





Which sporting events are the most popular among female spectators?

The top ten sporting events that attracted the most number of female spectators in Australia in 2009-10 are presented in the table below. Australian Rules football attracted the most number of female spectators in 2009-10 (1.2 million females, or 13% of females aged 15 years and over) followed by Horse racing (925,000 females, or 10%) and Rugby league (594,700 females, 7%).

Top Ten Most Attended Sporting Events by Females, Australia - 2009-10

Sporting Event
Number
Attendance rate
Rank
'000
%

1
Australian Rules football
1 171.1
13.2
2
Horse racing
925.0
10.4
3
Rugby league
594.7
6.7
4
Motor sports
456.8
5.2
5
Soccer (outdoor)
354.8
4.0
6
Rugby union
209.3
2.4
7
Cricket (outdoor)
190.5
2.2
8
Harness racing
190.2
2.1
9
Tennis (indoor and outdoor)
171.3
1.9
10
Netball (indoor and outdoor)
123.0
1.4

Source: Spectator Attendance at Sporting Events, 2009-10 (cat. no. 4174.0)




FEMALE EMPLOYMENT IN SPORT

The Census of Population and Housing collects occupation data for employed persons aged 15 years and over, who in the week prior to the Census: worked for payment or profit, or as an unpaid helper in a family business; had a job for which they were on holidays or paid leave; or were on strike or temporarily stood down. If a person had more than one job in the week prior to the Census, then 'main job' refers to the job in which the person usually worked the most hours. Persons who worked in a voluntary capacity are not classified as employed persons.

The most recent Census of Population and Housing was conducted in August 2011. Statistics on persons who had their main job in a sport or physical recreation occupation in 2011 were published in Employment in Sport and Recreation, Australia, August 2011 (cat. no. 4148.0).


How many females are employed in sports occupations?

According to the 2011 Census, 40,244 females were employed in sport and physical recreation occupations in Australia, an increase of 31% compared with the 2006 Census.

Females employed in sport and physical recreation occupations made up less than one per cent (0.9%) of the total female workforce.


What are the most common occupations for females working in sport and physical recreation?

Just under a third (32%) of females working in a sport or physical recreation occupation were employed as Fitness Instructors in 2011. The number of females employed in this occupation increased by 46% between 2006 and 2011. In 2011, 20% of females working in a sport or physical recreation occupation were employed as a Swimming Coach or Instructor.

The top ten sports and physical recreation occupations for females according to 2011 Census data are presented in the following table.

Top 10 Sports and Physical Recreation Occupations for Females, Australia - 2011

Occupation
Number Employed
Proportion of Females in Sports and Physical Recreation Occupations
Rank
no.
%

1
Fitness Instructor
12 736
31.6
2
Swimming Coach or Instructor
7 845
19.5
3
Stablehand
2 619
6.5
4
Gymnastics Coach or Instructor
2 020
5.0
5
Sports Centre Manager
1 487
3.7
6
Other Sports Coach or Instructor
1 477
3.7
7
Fitness Centre Manager
1 344
3.3
8
Lifeguard
1 272
3.2
9
Recreation Officer
1 099
2.7
10
Horse Trainer
1 034
2.6

Source: Employment in Sport and Recreation, Australia, August 2011 (cat. no. 4148.0)





FEMALE VOLUNTEERS IN SPORT

Volunteers are people who freely choose to give their time to organisations or groups in the community for no monetary reward. Their activities can include assisting an organisation to run more smoothly (e.g. by performing administrative or fundraising duties), providing information and advice (including counselling, teaching and coaching), as well as giving practical assistance to others, such as serving food and helping with gardening and transportation. Many sporting organisations rely heavily on volunteers to provide services for their members and to ensure the longer term sustainability of their organisations.

The 2010 General Social Survey (GSS) collected information about the characteristics of volunteers aged 18 years and over in Australia, including the age and employment status of volunteers and information about the types of organisations (sporting or other) involved. The publication Volunteers in Sport, Australia 2010 (cat. no. 4440.0.55.001) presented summary data on sport and physical recreation volunteers from the 2010 GSS.


How many females volunteer for sport and physical recreation organisations in Australia?

There were 3.2 million female volunteers in 2010, of which 1 million volunteered for sport and physical recreation organisations. Overall the volunteer rate for females in sport and physical recreation organisations was 12% in 2010.

The highest volunteer rate for females in sport and physical recreation organisations was in the 35-44 age group (20%). This may partly reflect the involvement of parents aged 35-44 in children's sporting activities.

Sport and Physical Recreation Female Volunteers, By age: Australia - 2010

Graph: Sport and Physical Recreation Female Volunteers, By age: Australia—2010


The majority of females who volunteered for sport and physical organisations in 2010 (787,800 or 77%) were employed (35% full-time and 42% part-time), whilst 224,800 (22%) were Not in the Labour Force.

Females employed on a part-time basis recorded a volunteer rate in sport and physical organisations of 19%. This compared with a volunteer rate of 14% for full-time employed females and 7% for females Not in the labour force.

Sport and Physical Recreation Female Volunteers, By labour force status: Australia - 2010

Graph: Sport and Physical Recreation Female Volunteers, By labour force status: Australia—2010






ENDNOTES

1. Bull FC, Bauman AE, Bellew B, Brown W. Getting Australia Active II: An update of evidence on physical activity for health. Melbourne, Australia. National Public Health Partnership (NPHP). August 2004. Accessed 23 April 2003 <http://www.nphp.gov.au/publications/documents/gaa_2_body_ver1.pdf>

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012 Australian Health Survey: First Results, 2011-12. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. ABS, Canberra. Accessed 23 April 2003<http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4364.0.55.001main+features12011-12>

3. Cadilhac D, Magnus A, Cumming T, Sheppard L, Pearce D, Carter R. The health and economic benefits of reducing disease risk factors - research report. Melbourne: VicHealth, Deakin University, National Stroke Research Institute, 2009. Accessed 13 May 2012 <http://dro.deakin.edu.au/eserv/DU:30020085/magnus-reducingdiseaserisk-2009.pdf>

4. Nicholson M & Hoye R. (Eds) Sport and Social Capital. Elsevier, Oxford. 2008.

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