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Living Arrangements: Lone fathers with dependant children
PARENTS WITH DEPENDANTS
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 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
PROPORTION OF GROSS WEEKLY INCOME SPENT ON HOUSING BY FAMILIES WITH DEPENDANTS, 1990
Source: Survey of Income & Housing Costs and Amenities
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.