The Parenthood is calling for reform that provides women with greater choice over the course of their careers once they’ve had children, as new data from the ABS highlights a persistent gender workforce participation gap, particularly during the typical child-raising years for parents.
The ABS data shows that those who are ‘fully or partially engaged in work and/or study’ is relatively equal between males and females until the age of 24, with engagement rates sitting at 79.6% for men and 75.8% for women.
This changes drastically over the next decade, as both men and women approach their early thirties, the most common age bracket for women to start having children. By age 35, just 52.8% of women are fully engaged in work or study in comparison with 85.6% of men.
The data suggests that this is not necessarily by choice, as shown through consistently higher rates of enrolment in tertiary education from women than men from the school leavers age bracket right up until the highest age bracket of 55-74 years.
“Women don’t want to have to choose between being a mother and having a career,” says interim CEO of The Parenthood, Jessica Rudd.
“High costs of childcare and childcare deserts, as well as insufficient paid parental leave entitlements and obsolete policies like the Activity Test are barriers that prevent women from engaging with work and studies as they’d like to, once they’ve had children.
“This data reiterates the need for more flexible systems that allow women the freedom to be a parent, continually build their careers, and be financially independent; a liberty that, for the most part, is far more accessible for men.
“As the cost-of-living continues to grow and places increasing pressure on families, drastic reform that encourages equal opportunity between men and women to participate in the workforce is needed.
“This reform will look like a greater availability of high quality, affordable and accessible early learning for all children in Australia and abolishing the Activity Test as soon as possible, so that mums don’t need to stay at home and care for their children.
“We would also like to see an increase in paid parental leave entitlements and incentives for more men to take parental leave so that women can return to work once they’ve had children and contribute to the economy,” says Ms Rudd.