1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/09/2010   
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Participation rates(a)(b)
Graph Image for Participation rates(a)(b)

Footnote(s): (a) Annual average. (b) Of parents with children under 15 years.

Source(s): ABS Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 6291.0.55.001)


Lone parents are less likely to be employed than parents in other types of families. Lone parents tend to have lower levels of labour force participation and are more likely to work part time than partnered parents. Among lone parents, fathers are more likely to participate in the labour force, and are more likely to work full time than mothers. However, most one parent families are headed by mothers (86% of one parent families with children under 15 years in 2009).

Between 2002 and 2009, the proportion of lone parents (with children under 15 years) who were in the labour force increased from 55% to 62%. This increase has slightly narrowed the gap between lone and partnered parents, as the participation rate among lone parents increased more than that of partnered parents with children under 15 years (increases of 7 and 3 percentage points respectively). The participation rate among partnered mothers with children under 15 years increased more slowly (from 63% to 67%) than that of lone mothers (from 53% to 59%), while that of partnered fathers remained stable at about 94% compared to that of lone fathers, which increased from 70% to 77%.

The participation rate among lone mothers and fathers tends to increase with the age of their youngest child. This is also the case for partnered mothers, but not for partnered fathers whose participation does not vary with the age of the youngest child (ABS 2007).

The increase in labour force participation among lone mothers (with children under 15 years) between 2002 and 2009 was driven by increases in both full-time and part-time employment. The proportion of lone mothers working part time increased from 27% to 30% between 2002 and 2009, while the proportion working full time increased from 18% to 22%. There was also a rise in employment among partnered mothers over this period (from 37% to 39% for part-time employment and from 23% to 25% for full-time employment).

Over half of lone fathers with children under 15 years worked full time (55%) in 2009, compared with 85% of partnered fathers. Lone fathers were more likely than partnered fathers to work part time (15% compared with 6%).

Lone parents are more likely to be unemployed than partnered parents, but the gap closed slightly between 2002 and 2009. The proportion of partnered parents who were unemployed remained the same between 2002 and 2009 (at about 3%), while the proportion of lone parents who were unemployed decreased slightly (from 8% to 7%). Lone fathers were more likely to be unemployed than partnered fathers (7% compared with 3%)

For more information about children without an employed parent, see the Family, community and social cohesion section.


  • Family community and social cohesion
  • Work glossary
  • Work references

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