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Australians Struggling to Achieve Work-Life Balance Says AIHW Report


20 October 2017 at 5:13 pm
Luke Michael
Australians are struggling to achieve a work-life balance, ranking in the bottom third of OECD countries for working longer hours, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).


Luke Michael | 20 October 2017 at 5:13 pm


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Australians Struggling to Achieve Work-Life Balance Says AIHW Report
20 October 2017 at 5:13 pm

Australians are struggling to achieve a work-life balance, ranking in the bottom third of OECD countries for working longer hours, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Australia’s Welfare 2017, found that while Australians were on average working less hours than previously, we still ranked 27th out of 35 OECD countries in this measure.

Data showed that 20 per cent of men and 7 per cent of women worked 50 hours or more per week in 2015, down from 26 per cent and 8 per cent respectively, in 2004.

But AIHW director and CEO, Barry Sandison, said while it was good to see a reduction in hours, what mattered was whether the number of working hours matched an individual’s personal preferences.

“Australia’s Welfare 2017 shows that while we have made some inroads into achieving work-life balance, we are still among the bottom third of OECD countries when it comes to working long hours,” Sandison said.

“The report illustrates that regardless of the number of hours worked, if an individual’s preferences did not align with their working hours, they reported lower levels of satisfaction and poorer mental health than individuals whose preferences aligned with their working hours.

“This was true for both underemployed and overemployed workers.”

AIHW’s latest two-yearly report card looked at the changing distribution of working hours since 1971, and found the notions of a standard working week had significantly changed.

“[The data] shows that the notion of a standard-length work week—centred on the eight-hour day, five-day week—has not been the norm for a long time,” the report said.

“At the start of the period, in 1971, 58 per cent of all employed people reported working between 35 and 44 hours a week, which is roughly equivalent to a standard work week once allowance is made for some modest level of paid overtime.

“By the end of the period (August 2016), this proportion was slightly less than 40 per cent among males and less than 32 per cent among females.”

The report also found a high proportion of Australians were engaged in part-time work compared to other countries, and that this part-time work was also accompanied by longer working hours.

“The share of workers in part-time employment in Australia is very high by international standards. While international comparisons are complicated by differences in definitions, data suggest that among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, only the Netherlands (38 per cent) and Switzerland (27 per cent) employ proportionally more part-time workers than Australia,” the report said.

“Australia is also relatively distinctive in having a workforce where the high incidence of part-time work is accompanied by a relatively high proportion of workers reporting working long hours each week.

“The OECD ranks Australia 10th out of 38 included member and partner countries for the proportion of its workers (13 per cent) working ‘very long hours’ (50 hours or more per week as defined by the OECD).”

As well as this, the report highlighted education was increasingly the “backbone of good employment prospects”.

Sandison said that as jobs became more highly skilled, there was an increased demand for a more qualified workforce.

“In 2016, people with higher levels of educational attainment were more likely to be employed—more than 80 per cent of people with a non-school qualification were employed, compared with 54 per cent of people whose highest qualification was Year 10 or below,” he said.

Despite this, university graduates in Australia are finding it harder to secure full time work.

Around 71 per cent of graduates were working full-time within four months of graduating in 2016, compared to 85 per cent in 2008.


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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