Work and family tensions into the future

Monday, 16 August 2004

Australia is likely to see continuing work and family tension as a new generation of workers and parents enter the labour market, according to a new study.

The overwhelming majority of young Australians expect to work and have children, and most plan to share care of their children with their partner. Only a few are planning to be childless. These plans will test Australian workplaces. It also looks likely that tensions over the gender distribution of domestic work will continue.

The findings are contained in a report Work and Family Futures: How Young Australians Plan to Work and Care by Associate Professor Barbara Pocock, a Research Fellow in Social Sciences at the University of Adelaide. The study was funded by The Australian Institute and the Australian Research Council.

For the qualitative study, 93 young Australians participated in 21 focus groups. They were Year 6 and Year 11 males and females (aged from 10 to 18 years) in urban and rural locations in both high and low socio-economic locations in two Australian states.

Dr Pocock says: "All the young men and women in the study expect to have a paid job when they finish school and study and most want to be actively involved in the care of their children.

"Young people will be looking for flexible work, access to parental leave, and the chance to be involved in the lives of their children. This will be a big test for workplaces."

Young people also plan to make use of formal childcare, but they show a lot of interest in its quality, based on their own experience of childcare centres.

More young women than young men are keen to share housework. Some young men hope their wives will do it and young women say they will have to "start strong and stay strong" to get husbands to help. Some hope young men will "mature into" housework. There is evidence of tactical planning on the part of both sexes as they try to get what they want.

These trends suggest that inequality in housework is likely to be very long lived, that the market in domestic services will to continue to expand strongly.


Contact Details

Associate Professor Barbara Pocock
Queen Elizabeth II Fellow in Labour Studies
School of Social Sciences
University of Adelaide.
Business: 8313 3736
Mobile: 0414 244 606

Media Team
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 0814