Child caring responsibilities are the largest barrier to employment for the majority (75%) of women with children under 15, who say they want a job or more working hours, reveals new ABS data.
Of this group, 27.7% said that childcare was not available, booked out or inaccessible to them geographically, and 11.1% said that childcare was too expensive.
“This is more data showing that the opportunities for mothers to earn an income or progress in their careers are limited by systemic barriers,” said Georgie Dent, CEO of The Parenthood.
“Unfortunately, the structure of our society is still set up for an era that no longer exists, when dads worked and mums didn’t. In modern Australia it takes two incomes for most families to cover a mortgage or the rent, but it takes affordable early childhood education and outside school hours and care to earn two incomes.”
Of the women surveyed with a child under 15 that wanted to work more, the majority (67.6%) said the strongest incentives to do so are the ability to work part-time hours, the ability to work school hours (59.7%) and the ability to vary start and finish times (53%).
“These findings tell the story of the juggling act that so many women find themselves trying to balance – one that strikes the right balance between feeling financially stable and pursuing parenthood in a way that works for them.
The Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce’s final report, released at the end of last year, calculated that a staggering $128 billion could be saved with ‘women’s full and equal participation in economic activity’.
“Early childhood education and paid parental leave must be seen as critical infrastructure. You can’t go to work if you don’t have a road to get there. You can’t go to work if you don’t have an affordable and safe place for your kid. These things are synonymous,” said Dent.
“Like roads and public schools, early childhood education and care centers in Australia should be funded by the government as critical infrastructure. It is an investment in the country’s future workforce, and also its current one, especially mothers and early childhood teachers.”
“Importantly, it’s not just women’s careers and finances, or even Australia’s economy that suffers. the Launch of The Dad’s Alliance Action Plan in January showed us that Australian men also want to see a cultural shift in which childcare and employment policies permit both parents to share the work and care loads.
“The Parenthood is calling on the Government to remove the Activity Test as soon as possible, make childcare more affordable for low- and middle-income families with young kids and develop more early learning centres in regional and remote areas.
“We also want to see an increase to paid parental leave entitlements for both mothers and fathers, so that less parents feel their care and career trajectories are at odds.”