If you’re reading this aloud then you need to take an extremely deep breath before embarking on the next sentence. New results from a longitudinal study called the Housing Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey (affectionately known by data nerds as ‘HILDA’) was released. Since 2001, the survey has followed the lives of 14,000 Australians and comes back to check on them each and every year.
And what HILDA has to say in 2019? Well, it makes for pretty depressing reading.
Let’s start with the good news. After taking a hit around the time of the global financial crisis, the number of women in full-time employment has recovered. Women’s hourly earnings are also rising – and rising faster than men. Women earn almost 25 percent an hour more than they did in 2001. That’s progress and it’s worthy of applause.
“Even with women working longer hours and earning more than ever before, blokes aren’t stepping up on the home front in the same way.“
This, however, is where it all starts to go down a very steep and gendered hill. In heterosexual couples, three out of four men are the majority income earner. And even in the 25 percent of households where the woman does earn more than her male partner, she does more unpaid work around the house. Blokes whose female partner earns more still do five hours less domestic work and spend eight hours less caring for their kids.
Gender norms around what is ‘men’s’ work and what is ‘women’s’ work remain incredibly strong. They dictate our expectations of what our partners should do when it comes to child-rearing and domestic duties. And they also dictate our expectations of what we should be doing. The result is that even with women working longer hours and earning more than ever before, blokes aren’t stepping up on the home front in the same way.
Another HILDA finding which caught my eye was about the cost of child care and nannies. If you’ve been feeling the pinch when it comes to your child care bill, then you’re far from alone. Child care costs have more than doubled since 2002. For the average Australian family with kids in care, it eats up 27 percent of their income. Is it any wonder that for many families the weighing up of pros and cons on mum returning to work after having a baby, fall down on the ‘not worth it’ side of the equation?
We’ve got twelve months before the next instalment of HILDA. Let’s hope she delivers some more heartening news in 2020.
Just A Thought explores the cultural and political musings of Jamila Rizvi.