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Six changes in society that are propelling the work and family collision
October 16, 2005
More women in the labour force
In 1978, just over a third (35.9%) of the workforce was female. Today women make up 45% of the workforce.
Changes in the way families and households are organised
Families are more complex than they were 25 years ago. The trends are towards later marriage, smaller households, relationship breakdown, more single person households and geographic dispersions of families.
Between 1976 and 1996, the number of single parent families trebled (from 221,500 to 673,000.) They are overwhelmingly headed by women. About half of these parents are employed.
There are more dependent people
The number of people with a disability has increased across all age groups. Today over 1 million Australians are severely disabled – sometimes or always need assistance with self-care, mobility or communicating.
A further 2.7 million Australians have less severe disabilities that make it difficult for them to perform core tasks.
Thirty years of de-institutionalisation of care means 97% of these Australians are cared for by their families. It is estimated that 45% of employees have some caring responsibilities. Most primary and other carers are women.
There are more young mothers in work
There has been a dramatic shift in the age of the child when mothers return to paid employment. Today one third of mothers return to work when their baby is under one, and more than half by the time the child is two.
The gaps in care
Work and family pressures are affected by the availability of childcare. Over 70% of households with children under five report concerns with the cost of childcare. Today around half of all children use some form of non-parental care. According to Commonwealth data in 2002, around a quarter of all long day care centres had no vacancies at all. The shortages are worst for children under two years of age.
Some aspects of work are becoming hostile to families
Longer hours, unpredictable hours and irregular hours are damaging the work and family balance.
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