More Australian women hold a university degree than men, but on the whole earn less than their male counterparts and carry the lion’s share of housework and childcare, new figures reveal.
The latest installment of the Melbourne Institute’s study of Household Income and Labour Dynamics (HILDA) shows women dominate the massive increase in university attendance over the 15 years from 2001 and 2016.
While 22.6 per cent of both men and women aged 25-64 had a university degree in 2001, that had jumped to 35.7 per cent of women in 2016 and 31.1 per cent of men.
However, the jump in tertiary educated women has done little to close the gender pay gap.
Between 2001 and 2016 the average weekly earnings of full-time employees increased 23 per cent for males and 22 per cent for females, leaving the pay gap virtually unchanged.
And while Australians believe they are more progressive in their views about traditional gender roles at home and work, the reality is very different.
Report co-author Inga Lass said men and women are increasingly disagreeing with statements about traditional general arrangements for parenting and work.
Women in de facto relationships were least likely to be in favour of traditional gender roles while married men were most in favour of such arrangements, the Melbourne Institute academic said.
Dr Lass said there was a significant discrepancy between men and women’s perceptions of a fair share of work.
“HILDA shows most women feel overburdened by household chores, while most men think they do their fair share.”
Men spend an extra hour a week on housework compared to 2002, but their 13.3 hours is short of women’s 20.4 hours.
Both sexes increased their time devoted to caring for children and disabled or elderly relatives, but there was again a gap between men (5.4 hours) and women (11.3 hours).
Disposable income stagnation
The HILDA study also showed men spent more time on employment (on average 35.9 hours a week in 2016) than women (24.9 hours).
Among married couples with children, women did 29 per cent of the paid work but about 65 per cent of both housework and care.
But while wages have naturally increased, the typical Australian household hasn’t seen a significant rise in post-tax real income since 2009.
The median household had a disposable income of $79,160 in 2009, while the latest year of HILDA data available puts the median income was $79,244.
One piece of good news is that real incomes — that is adjusted to cancel out the effects of inflation — did rise 1.8 per cent compared to 2015.
One of the contributors to stagnating household incomes has been the rising prevalence of part-time work and underemployment.
The report observed that, while Australia escaped the worst immediate effects of the global financial crisis, it marked a turning point for the labour market.
“From 2001 until 2008, employment participation had been rising and unemployment had been falling,” it said.
“Since then, the labour market has been relatively flat, with the proportions of men and women employed remaining below their 2008 peaks and the proportions unemployed remaining above the 2008 trough.”
The employment trend has been particularly stark for men aged between 18-64, for whom the part-time employment rate rose from just over 10 per cent to around 14 per cent.
Full-time employment for men, meanwhile, lumped from 73.3 per cent in 2008 to 67 per cent in 2016, while full-time employment for women aged 18-64 was also slightly down from the pre-2008 peak of almost 40 per cent.