AIFS research supports latest findings on gender divide in working families


The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) welcomes findings of a national survey that sheds light on the continuing gender divide in working families, providing further evidence that employers need to better support working parents to achieve work-life balance.

The 2024 National Working Families survey, commissioned by Parents at Work and UNICEF Australia, found that over 74% of women felt stressed balancing work and family commitments, compared to 57% of men – a marked increase from the 51% of women and 34% of men who reported feeling stressed in 2019.

The study also revealed that women bear the majority of care and household duties, and that gender norms continue to underpin family-friendly policies and workplace attitudes.

The findings are supported by earlier AIFS research into couple families, including a 2021 report on sharing housework, and another in 2023 into the take-up of parental leave pay.

An AIFS report published in 2021 found a gendered distribution of housework within opposite-sex couples. In 42% of couple families household tasks were always or usually done by the female – whereas in only 10% they were always or usually done by the male.

74% of males were satisfied with the way household tasks were divided, compared to 52% of females. Dissatisfaction among females was particularly apparent in families in which both partners worked fulltime and the female usually or always did more housework.

Another AIFS report, published in 2023, into patterns of use of Parental Leave Pay (PLP) and Dad and Partner Pay (DAPP) showed a very gendered pattern to the use of these payments, indicating a significant gap between males and females in primary care-giving in the first year of their child’s life.

At the time of the 2021 Census about 20% of mothers of a child under one year of age were using PLP, while DAPP was utilised by around 1% of new fathers.

Executive Manager, Families, Society and Lifecourse at AIFS, Dr Jennifer Baxter, said coupled with previous findings in her own research at AIFS, the latest data shows employers still have a long way to go to support working parents and carers to achieve work-life balance.

“I’ve been researching the lives of working parents for many years, and it’s disappointing that many of the same issues are still present, despite many workplaces making genuine attempts to improve flexibility and work-life balance,” Dr Baxter said.

“Developing policies that enable both fathers and mothers to play an active role in caring for their children, and doing the hard work of running the home, has to be a top priority for employers. For the benefit of working parents and their children, but also for the benefit of their own bottom line.”

Next month AIFS will be publishing a research report on sharing childcare in the home. Dr Baxter presented the findings at an earlier conference, revealing in 54% of couple households looking after children is always or usually done by the mother – and in 78% the ‘mental load’ is always or usually done by the mother.

Full results of the National Working Families Survey can be found here.

AIFS conducts original research to increase understanding of Australian families and the issues that affect them; see

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