Work-life balance still a big squeeze for Aussie workers

Barbara Pocock.Australians’ work-life outcomes have not improved over the past five years, according to the findings of the latest Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) survey.

Increased intensity in work demands and worsening work-life outcomes for full-time working women are among the main findings of the survey, in which a quarter of all respondents report that work frequently interferes with other life activities.

The 2012 survey of almost 3,000 working Australians is the fifth undertaken by University of South Australia’s Centre for Work + Life, and its outcomes are detailed in The Big Squeeze: Work, home and care in 2012 report.

The report reveals:

  • How women who work full-time are experiencing worsening work-life outcomes
  • Many employees are experiencing high levels of work intensification
  • The impact of the Fair Work Act 2009 when it comes to requesting flexibility at work
  • How the length of parental leave, and how working from home, affects work life outcomes.

Centre Director Professor Barbara Pocock says since the publication of the first AWALI report in 2007, the global financial crisis and the continuing instability of financial markets has influenced Australians’ work and family lives.

“Legislation including the Fair Work Act 2009, and the introduction of rights enabling greater work flexibility and paid parental leave have also been introduced in recent years in Australia,” she says.

“Amidst all this change, work-life interference has remained widespread and persistent since 2007. It particularly affects those who work long hours, and things have become worse for women working full time.”

Full-time women’s dissatisfaction with their work life balance has almost doubled (from 15.9 per cent in 2008 to 27.5 per cent in 2012) while men report little change.

The survey also indicates that the “struggle to juggle” work with parenthood is persistent, with 41 per cent of mothers in full-time employment saying they would prefer to work part time – the largest proportion since 2007.

Professor Pocock suggests that improving work life outcomes would require both policy change and a cultural shift in the workplace.

“Policy changes like paid parental leave and more flexibility at work clearly help workers reconcile work with the rest of their lives. However, more is needed given that there has been little positive change in Australians’ work-life outcomes on average over the past five years,” she says.

“More policy change and more action in workplaces are necessary to better enable workers to reconcile their jobs with the rest of their lives.

“In a diverse workforce that is also aging, there is a pressing need for reform that extends flexibility to all workers, regardless of their life circumstances.

“We also need management and cultural change in workplaces to reduce long hours of work, reduce work intensification and mitigate negative work-life interference.”

The report can be downloaded here.

Contact for interview:
Barbara Pocock office 8302 4194 mobile 0414 244 606 email Barbara.Pocock@unisa.edu.au 

Media contact:
Will Venn office 8302 0965 email Will.Venn@unisa.edu.au

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