Aussie families feeling time pinch

A NEW report has found balancing work and family remains a big issue for Australians with about 40 per cent of women and 30 per cent of men saying they feel they are often or always rushed and pressed for time.

But when it comes to how men and women spend their day, there are some big differences, with traditional gender roles still evident.

The report, Race against time - How Australians spend their time by AMP and the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM), examines time use in Australia, including time spent on employment and education; housework and child care; leisure; and sleeping and eating; and how this has evolved.

It found Australian women are spending on average two hours more each day than men on housework, child care and purchasing goods and services while men spend almost the equivalent extra time on employment-related activities as well as an extra half hour per day on recreational and leisure pursuits.

With many already time squeezed, women are less satisfied than men with their partners' contribution towards child care and housework, with 25 per cent not so satisfied with their partner's commitment of time towards child care (compared to 15 per cent for men).

And women are even less happy with the help they get with household tasks - with 11 per cent actively dissatisfied. In contrast, only 4 per cent of men are dissatisfied with their partners' efforts around the home.

Contributing to time pressures, the report found Australian full-time weekly work hours have increased by almost three hours for men and two hours for women since 1985. Average weekly full-time hours have risen from 39.5 hours to 42.3 hours for men and 36.4 hours to 38.6 hours for women.

AMP Financial Services Managing Director Craig Meller said the report showed that juggling work and family is the main reason both men and women in Australia feel pressed for time.

"Juggling competing work, family and individual commitments means we have to be careful time managers," Mr Meller said.

"But there are only 24 hours in a day, leaving many of us feeling like we've let someone, or even ourselves, down.

"This is especially the case for young working mothers, who seem to be the most time poor according to the  report's findings."

A third of men and women in double income households with children feel that child care is shared fairly between them. However, an additional 33 per cent of women believe they do more than their fair share of looking after the children, despite their partners claiming to contribute fairly.

Time pressure is felt especially by young mothers with children, with more than 60 per cent feeling they contribute more than their fair share to household tasks. This compares with 50 per cent of working women without children.

NATSEM Director and co-author of the report Professor Alan Duncan said the regular nine to five working week now appeared to be less the norm, with people now working longer hours, often with early starts and late finishes, and weekends at the office.

"These types of work patterns have potentially adverse effects on family life, a greater requirement for tag team parenting and add to the time pressures that working couples particularly are feeling," Professor Duncan said.

Other key report findings

Women spend more time buying goods and services, while men have more free time. Each day, on average:

  • Women spend 59 minutes on child care, compared to 22 minutes for men;
  • Women spend 2 hours, 52 minutes on domestic activities and men spend one 1 hour, 37 minutes;
  • Women spend 58 minutes purchasing goods and services while men spend 38 minutes;
  • Men spend 4 hours, 33 minutes on employment-related activities, while women spend 2 hours, 21 minutes.

*Note: When measuring averages for time spent on an activity, all minutes stated are averaged over the seven days of the week and the whole specified population group, which includes men and women at all ages, job statuses and those with and without children.