A quarter of Australian households now have women as the primary breadwinner, a new report has found.
The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) has found women are the biggest wage-earners in more than half a million dual-income households.
When Dave Palmer is not playing trombone with orchestras and soul bands, he is home entertaining his two daughters.
The teacher and musician stays at home half the week while his wife puts in demanding hours as a social worker.
But Mr Palmer says his story is not unique.
“I’ve seen a shift. I live in Brunswick and particularly here, in my experience as a dad doing kinder and school pickups and drop-offs, I’m not the only dad by a long shot,” he said.
“A lot of people I know have made the choice to try and cram in time with their kids before they hit school.”
For other families, however, the decision of who will be the primary breadwinner is a financial one.
NATSEM reports in a quarter of Australian double-income families, women are bringing home the lion’s share of the household income. This is 140,000 more households than a decade ago.
Women learn more, fared better in GFC
Matthew Toohey, who co-authored the report, says the results are not particularly surprising.
“What we’ve seen in recent times is an increasing proportion of women getting higher education and higher education levels typically allow people to earn greater income,” he said.
“What we saw through the global financial crisis is that occupations traditionally dominated by women, such as nursing and teaching, were less affected by the GFC than occupations traditionally dominated by men.”
But Mr Toohey says a lot depends on the family’s socio-economic status.
“At the highest income levels, it’s still more likely to be the male that’s the breadwinner, but in the middle-income and low-income families, female breadwinners have certainly increased.”
Mr Palmer says traditional family roles are changing and, while he relishes his time with his daughters, he concedes some fathers are finding the shift emasculating.
“I’ve walked down the street crying. I’ve walked down the street, pushing a pram, going ‘What the hell am I doing?’
“At that time I felt like I was the only one doing this. My daughter was not yet at kinder and I hadn’t formed those social links with other dads who are doing the same thing. At that time, I can remember feeling like, yep, maybe it was a mistake.”
He says his fellow teachers and musicians have respected his choice to work part-time, but he doubts other workplaces would be as sympathetic.
“I suspect my mate Jason, who works in a steel mill, might get a slightly different take on it if he was to go part-time.”
Call for change to government policy
Mr Toohey says his report has a number of implications when it comes to government policy.
“The Government needs to continue and increase those supports that allow families to juggle whatever arrangements that they have, so we’re no longer a situation where you’ve got a single male breadwinner and a stay-at-home wife,” he said.
“We’re seeing a much wider array of family relationship types and patterns of labour force participation.”
Mr Palmer suggests the Government looks at the way second jobs are taxed.
“If you do put the extra hours in and pay for childcare, all of a sudden your income is halved or, you lose a sizeable chunk of your income to pay for the childcare so that you can work,” he said.
“And then the Government is taxing you at a higher rate as well for taking on a second job.”