Aussies commuting longer, sadder: report

Australia

Australians are taking longer commuting trips, being diagnosed with depression in record numbers and increasingly unhappy with their work-life balance.

But it’s not all bad news.

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey has been tracking 17,500 people in 9500 households since 2001, revealing insights about trends in Aussie families.

“The number of Australians in paid employment is continuing to rise, particularly among women, who saw their employment rate hit 71 per cent – the highest in the history of the survey,” the report found.

“However, commute times are much longer and we’re struggling to find a better balance between work and family commitments.

“Child care continues to contribute to family pressure, the number of young adults living at home is on the up and there has been a significant increase in diagnosed depression and anxiety.”

The Melbourne University report, released on Tuesday, showed a substantial increase in depression diagnoses across all age groups, most notably in young people.

It also found incomes have stagnated and that’s affecting the capacity of households to stimulate the economy.

“The income of someone in the middle has basically remained unchanged since 2012,” Professor Roger Wilkins said.

“That was on the back of very substantial rises, particularly in the mid 2005 to 2009 range in particular, we saw very large increases in household incomes, but since 2012 there’s been basically no growth.”

Stagnant incomes are affecting the ability of parents to find childcare, which is in turn affecting their ability to earn more.

“The costs of childcare are one really, really big factor, but there are other factors, so that parents find it difficult to find care for a sick child or to find care at short notice,” Dr Inga Lass said.

Commuter times are also up, with mainland commuters spending an average of 66 minutes travelling to and from work every day.

The report found fathers with two or more children were more likely to have the longest commutes, and they were more likely to be unhappy with their pay, job and work-life balance.

But Dr Lass says the number of fathers with high levels of “work-family conflict” has dropped since 2001, while the number of women has risen.

The data reveals working hours are behind the gender gap – the longer hours a parent works, the higher their work-family conflict score.

“Once we account for working hours, it is mothers who have the highest levels of work-family conflict,” Dr Lass said.

“In other words, most working mothers achieve a better balance between work and family spheres by working only part-time hours.”

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