Mothers' Day 2007 and National Families Week: ABS (Media Release)

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May 11, 2007
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)

Mothers' Day 2007 and National Families Week: ABS

The theme of National Families Week 2007 (13 May - 19 May) is 'Families Investing in Time Together'. The following selection of highlights on this theme has been drawn from a number of different Australian Bureau of Statistics sources to assist your coverage of National Families Week and Mothers' Day (13 May). Links to relevant statistical releases are also provided at the end of this document (see Media notes).

Births up in recent years

During 2005 there were 259,800 births registered in Australia, born to 255,500 mothers. This was the highest number of births since 1993, when 260,200 births were registered (Births, Australia, 2005, cat. no. 3301.0)

Caring for children

Grandparents are major providers of care for their grandchildren, especially the very young.
  • Almost 20% of children aged 0-12 years are cared for by their grandparents during a school term week, according to Child Care, Australia, 2005 (cat. no. 4402.0). This proportion was especially high for one and two year olds (33% and 31% respectively).
  • Among babies (i.e. children under the age of one) 23% had been cared for by a grandparent in the reference week. This was more than four times the proportion (5%) who had been cared for in a long day care centre which was the next most common type of care arrangement parents used for their babies.
  • Children aged 0-12 years who were cared for by grandparents received an average of 12 hours of care from them in the previous week, a similar amount of care to that received by children who attended formal child care (14 hours on average).

Caring for adults

Family members care for those who need help because of disability, long-term health condition or old age. In 2003 there were an estimated 474,600 people who were primary carers, that is, carers who provided the majority of the informal help needed by a person with a disability, in one or more of the activities of self-care, mobility, or communication (from Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia, 2003, cat. no. 4430.0).

  • For over 90% of primary carers the main recipient of their care was one of the following family members: a partner, a parent or a child.
  • 42% of primary carers were caring for their partner, who in most cases was living in the same household.
  • Another 26% of primary carers were children (of any age) caring for parents. Almost half of these were caring for a parent living elsewhere.
  • 37% of primary carers spent on average 40 hours or more per week providing care and another 18% spent on average 20 to 39 hours per week.

Mothers and employment

When children are young, many mothers work part time in paid employment to enable them to invest more time in caring for their children. The 2005 ABS Pregnancy and Employment Transitions Survey showed that of the 467,000 mothers whose youngest child was under two years of age, 39% (181,000) had been in paid employment since the birth of the child.

Of these women whose youngest child was aged under two years and who had been in paid employment since the birth of the child:
  • 82% (148,000) worked part time; and
  • Almost half (45% or 81,000) worked 15 hours or less per week.

More women with children are taking on paid work. During the ten years from August 1996 to August 2006, the percentage of mothers aged 25 to 34 years (with children aged under 15) who were employed increased from 46% to 52%. This upward trend was similar for mothers aged 35 to 44 years (with children aged under 15) among whom the percentage employed increased from 64% to 68%.

Balancing work and family

An article in the 2006 ABS publication Australian Social Trends (see link below), drawing on ABS Time Use Surveys conducted in 1992 and 1997, demonstrates that a decade ago, mothers were largely continuing in the role of primary child carer while fathers were largely continuing in the role of primary income earner.

In 1997, on average, fathers of children aged less than 15 years did less than half as much of the direct caring of children than mothers (28 hours and 61 hours per week respectively). Fathers, however, spent considerably more time in activities relating to paid employment than mothers, reflecting traditional gender roles and family responsibilities.

However, the article also noted that between 1992 and 1997, fathers had increased the amount of time spent in child care activities by an average of almost 47 minutes per week.

Results of the 2006 ABS Time Use Survey, are scheduled to be released towards the end of 2007, in the publication How Australians Use Their Time (ABS cat. no. 4153.0). These results will show the extent to which mothers and fathers are continuing in traditional gender roles.

Parents' use of working arrangements to help care for their children

Employed mothers continue to make greater use of working arrangements than employed fathers to help them care for their children:
  • the proportion of employed mothers who used working arrangements to help them care for their children aged under 12 years increased from 69% in 1996 to 74% in 2005;
  • the working arrangements most commonly used by employed mothers were flexible working hours and permanent part-time work (used by 44% and 36% of employed mothers) and to a lesser extent, working at home (used by 18%).

The proportion of employed fathers who used working arrangements to care for their children aged under 12 years had increased more substantially than the corresponding proportion of employed mothers over the ten year period:
  • the proportion of employed fathers who used working arrangements to help them care for their children aged under 12 years increased from 26% in 1996 to 34% in 2005;
  • flexible working hours (used by 25% of employed fathers) was by far the most common working arrangement used by employed fathers to help care for their children.
Media notes:
More information is available from this website including: