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«The Persistent Challenge: Living, Working and Caring in Australia in 2014 A W A L I Natalie Skinner and Barbara Pocock Centre for Work + Life ...»

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The Australian Work and Life Index 2014

The Persistent Challenge:

Living, Working and Caring

in Australia in 2014


Natalie Skinner and Barbara Pocock

Centre for Work + Life

University of South Australia



‘Making a living is not the same as making a life’

Maya Angelou, 1928-2014

© September 2014

Published by the Centre for Work + Life

University of South Australia http://www.unisa.edu.au/Research/Centre-for-Work-Life


St Bernards Road Magill SA 5072 Adelaide


GPO Box 2471 Adelaide, SA 5001 Australia Authors: Natalie Skinner and Barbara Pocock Title: The Persistent Challenge: Living, Working and Caring in Australia in 2014. The Australian Work and Life Index ISBN: 978-0-9875120-5-5


AWALI 2014 was funded through an Australian Research Council Linkage grant in partnership with the South Australian Government through SafeWork SA and the Australian Government through the Department of Employment.

We thank Zoe Gray for her editing assistance. Of course, responsibility for the final text rests with the authors.

Contents Contents



Executive summary

Section 1: Introduction

What AWALI measures

The work-life index

Past AWALI surveys

The AWALI 2014 sample and methodology

Statistical conventions in this report

What we know from previous AWALI surveys

Structure of this report

Section 2: The AWALI 2014 sample

Section 3: Work-life interference: a gendered analysis

Work-life interference in 2014: Individual work-life index items

Work interferes with activities outside work

Time with family and friends

Community engagement

Time pressure

Satisfaction with work-life balance

Australians’ work-life interference from 2008 to 2014

Key trends by gender and work hours


Section 4: Actual and preferred working hours and work-life interference

Working hours and work-life interference – comparing men and women

How many hours would Australian workers prefer to work?

Half a day less: preferences to reduce work hours by at least four hours

Work-life interference and hours ‘fit’

Not all working hours are the same: working non-standard or unsocial hours

Who works unsocial work hours?

Unsocial work hours and work-life interaction


Section 5: Work-life interference: caring responsibilities, age, income and location

Caring responsibilities


Household income

Geographic location


Section 6: Employment characteristics and work-life interference

Type of employment contract





Section 7: Requests for flexible work arrangements

Awareness of a legal right to request flexibility

Requesting flexibility

Mechanism under which employees requested flexibility

Requests and hours of work

Requests by occupation

Requests by industry

Outcome of request: granted or declined

Reasons for not making a request

Outcome of requests and work-life interference


Section 8: Flourishing

Work-life interference and flourishing

Socio-demographic predictors of flourishing

Employment predictors of flourishing




Table 1 Overview of the AWALI 2014 sample (per cent)

Table 2 Household demographics of the AWALI sample, (per cent)

Table 3 Work-life index items by gender, 2009 - 2014 (per cent)

Table 4 Actual and preferred work hours by part-time/full-time work status and gender

Table 5 Regular (often/almost always) unsocial work hours by gender, per cent

Table 6 Work hours and work-life index scores by type of employment contract and gender

Table 7 Work-life index scores by industry (from highest to lowest index score)

Table 8 Aware of right to request flexible work arrangements, 2012 and 2014 (per cent)

Table 9 Made a request to change work arrangements by gender, age and parenting, 2009, 2012 and 2014 (per cent)

Table 10 Requests to change work arrangements by work hours, 2014 (per cent)

Table 11 Requests to change work arrangements by occupation, 2014 (per cent)

Table 12 Reasons request not made, by gender, 2009, 2012 and 2014 (per cent of non-requesters)................ 43 Table 13 Reasons request not made by gender and work hours, 2014 (per cent of non-requesters)................. 44 Table 14 Proportion requesting flexibility by gender and whether content with current arrangements (per cent of all employees), 2009, 2012 and 2014 (per cent)

Table 15 Flourishing – AWALI 2014 and European Social Survey 2012, per cent flourishing (employees).......... 47 Table 16 Flourishing by hours fit with preferences, per cent flourishing (employees), AWALI 2014.................. 48 Table 17 Flourishing by flexibility requests, per cent flourishing (employees), AWALI 2014


Figure 1 Work interferes with activities outside work, full-time workers, 2008–2014 (per cent)

Figure 2 Work restricts time with family/friends, full-time workers, 2008–2014 (per cent)

Figure 3 Work interferes with community connections, 2008-2014 (per cent)

Figure 4 Feeling rushed or pressed for time, full-time workers, 2008-2014 (per cent)

Figure 5 Feeling rushed or pressed for time, part-time workers, 2008-2014 (per cent)

Figure 6 Satisfaction with work-life balance, full-time workers, 2008–2014 (per cent)

Figure 7 Work-life index scores for full-time workers by gender, 2008–2014

Figure 8 Part-time and full-time work hours by gender, AWALI 2014 and ABS (2012) (per cent)

Figure 9 Work-life index scores by work hours and gender

Figure 10 Work hours fit with preferences by gender (per cent)

Figure 11 Work hours fit with preferences by gender and work hours (per cent)

Figure 12 Work-life index scores by work hours fit

Figure 13 Work-life scores by regular unsocial work hours (often/almost always)

Figure 14 Work-life index scores (adjusted for work hours) by household structure and gender

Figure 15 Work-life index scores by child and elder care, and gender

Figure 16 Work-life index scores by age and gender

Figure 17 Work-life index scores by occupation and gender

Figure 18 Request outcomes by gender, 2009, 2012 and 2014 (per cent)

Figure 19 Work-life index scores by request outcome, 2014

iiExecutive summary

The AWALI 2014 survey The Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) survey measures how work intersects with other life activities, as seen by a randomly selected representative group of 2,690 working Australians.

Alongside its usual assessment of work-life interference in Australia, the 2014 AWALI survey offers

new insights on four particular themes:

 How employee requests for flexibility have changed since immediately prior to and four years subsequent to the Fair Work Act 2009 created new rights to request flexibility for some workers;

 Who works on Saturdays, Sundays and weekends, and how unsocial working times (weekends, evenings/nights) affect work-life outcomes;

 The work-life outcomes of carers of elders or a person with a chronic illness or disability;

 Patterns of flourishing (positive mental health) in the Australian workforce, and associations with social and employment factors.

AWALI 2014 also included questions on workers who currently receive penalty rates for working non-standard hours and wellbeing/thriving, and a longitudinal sample of participants re-contacted from 2012. These findings will be reported in other publications from the Centre for Work + Life.

Key findings Work-life interference remains a persistent challenge in Australia despite some changes in childcare, parental leave and employment law in the past two decades. Work life interference affects a wide range of workers, their families and communities. Its effects fall particularly hard upon women, mothers and other working carers. AWALI 2014 confirms that the length of working hours and the fit between actual and preferred hours are critical issues. Time strain is common, particularly for women. It is also important to highlight that not all working hours are the same: those who work on Saturday and particularly Sunday have worse work life interference - an issue that is relevant to the current debate about penalty rates in Australia.

Access to flexible work arrangements has also been the subject of policy initiatives and public discussion in recent times. There is now a large body of research evidence regarding the positive contribution flexibility can make to a positive and healthy work-life interaction. As we observe in the AWALI 2014, the level of awareness about the Right to Request a flexible work arrangement embodied in the National Employment Standards has increased since 2012. However, most workers remain unaware of this right, and the rate of request making has not changed significantly since before the right was enacted. AWALI 2014 therefore confirms that this right, as currently enacted, has not substantially impacted on flexibility in Australian workplaces. We now turn to a more detailed summary of key findings from AWALI 2014.

Little change in work-life outcomes over time Recent decades have seen profound changes in the Australian workforce. Two-thirds of Australians are now participating in the labour force (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014) and women’s rate of participation is increasing. Dual earner families are the norm, and the majority of sole-parents are engaged in paid work (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2009). As the population ages, combining work with elder care will also be a common experience, especially for women (Page et al., 2009).

Despite these profound social changes, the male breadwinner/female caregiver model of the 20th century is alive and well in 21st century Australia, and many workplace cultures are made in the image of the full-time male worker unencumbered by care responsibilities. Australian women work around this image and the practices it embeds – while doing substantially more caring and domestic work than men (Craig & Mullan, 2010). Indeed, Australia is one of the most unequal countries with respect to men’s and women’s sharing of domestic and care work (Sayer et al., 2009; Craig & Mullan, 2010).

This disconnect between changing labour force participation and unchanging gendered patterns of care-giving is likely to account for the consistent observation across AWALI surveys from 2008 to 2014 that women are more likely to experience poor work-life outcomes.

 On the work-life index, a composite measure of five work-life items, women have higher scores (worse work-life interference) than men, in both full-time and part-time work;

 The greatest gender difference is evident for time pressure: women are more likely than men to feel chronically rushed and pressed for time, regardless of work hours;

 There has been little change in work-life index scores over consecutive AWALI surveys;

 However, on some individual work-life items, and the work-life index, there is evidence of a decrease in work-life interference from 2012 to 2014 for women working full-time.

Time is of the essence – length of work hours and preference fit Time strain is at the heart of much work-life strain and interference. Not surprisingly, the number of hours worked, and the extent to which this time commitment fits in with non-work responsibilities and activities, is well established as a major influence on work-life interference (Skinner & Chapman, 2013). Specifically, long hours (or working longer than preferred) can significantly reduce the capacity and opportunity to engage in other life activities such as parenting, family activities, socialising, personal care and pursing hobbies and interests. With regard to working time, in 2014 (as

in previous AWALI surveys) we observed that:

 Men are more likely to work long hours (48+) than women;

 However, regardless of whether working short or long part-time or full-time hours, women have higher work-life interference than men;

 For all employees, long hours (48+) are associated with high work-life interference;

 Working four or more hours longer than preferred is associated with as much work-life interference as working long hours;

 Just over one third of employees, men and women, prefer to work at least four hours fewer; this rises to three quarters of those working long hours;

 Men in part-time work are most likely to prefer more hours – over half would prefer to increase their hours by at least half a day (4 hours).

It’s not just how much you work, it’s also when - unsocial hours In addition to the length of working hours, the scheduling of these hours also has the potential to create substantial work-life demands and strains. Working early mornings, evenings or nights not only presents challenges to biological functions such as sleep, it is often incompatible with the rhythms and schedules of social, family and community activities. We discuss in a separate report and in greater depth the issue of penalty rates (report available from the Centre for Work + Life website http://www.unisa.edu.au/research/centre-for-work-life/).

 Frequently working a combination of weekends and nights, or just evenings/nights, is associated with the highest work-life interference;

 Evening/night work is associated with the greatest negative impact on women’s work-life outcomes;

 Working combinations of evenings/nights and weekends has the worst impact on men’s worklife interference;

 Regularly (often/almost always) working Sundays is clearly associated with higher work-life interference, whether combined with regular Saturday work or not.

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