HILDA reveals women still do almost double the unpaid work of men

HILDA survey reveals women still do almost double the unpaid work of men


Women do almost double the hours of unpaid work per week compared to men, according to the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA Survey), out today. The statistic was among several worrying trends for Australian women including soaring costs in childcare, and the fact that single parent families and young people continue to be disproportionally disadvantaged compared to the rest of the community. 

Report author Professor Roger Wilkins from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, said the survey gave a crucial moving picture of Australian society.

“The first decade of this century was marked by strong growth in incomes amid the resources boom, but in the second decade income growth has been weak,” he said.

“HILDA shows that younger Australians face a more daunting transition into financial independence – it takes them longer to leave home, longer to find full-time work, and home ownership is getting more out of reach.”

“The economic challenges from the COVID pandemic will only make that worse.”

Below is a brief analysis of chapter findings of the report. Over the coming weeks, Women’s Agenda will be doing a more in-depth dive into key findings of this year’s HILDA including a marked increase in women’s time stress.

Households and Family Life:

Since 2001, the number of families with adult children aged between 18 to 29 still living at home has grown — the most popular group among these being women aged between 18 to 25. 

In 2001, 63 percent of young people aged 18 to 21 and 32 percent between 22 to 25 lived with their parents. The 2019 figures showed that 72 percent in the first age cohort still lived with their parents and fifty percent between 22-25 still lived with their parents. 

More than half of Australians (63 percent) aged 18 and above are legally married or in a de facto relationships while 37 percent in an ‘intimate, ongoing’ relationship with non-co-resident partners. 

Single parents with non-dependent children and no dependent children have increased by 2 percent. 


The proportion of couple-parent families with children where both parents are employed has increased from almost 60 percent in 2011 to 71.1 percent.

Families with pre-school aged children using childcare has almost doubled over that time, as childcare costs increased from a weekly average of $130 to $205 in out-of-pocket expenses. 


Roughly 40 percent of people move residencies over the course of a five-year period, with around 14 percent moving house on average per year. 

The most common reason people give for moving is to get a better place, while mobility for owner-occupiers has declined by 27 percent. Home ownership has declined, with 65 percent of households living in an owner-occupied home, which is reduced from 69 percent in 2001.


Since 2001, the level of income inequality has remained steady.

Between 2009 to 2017, the mean household income in Australia grew by only $2,322, while the median in 2017 was $1,243 lower than in 2009. 

Household disposable income has slowed over the past decade, growing by just six percent. 

Mean household incomes are notably higher in the capital cities than in the other regions of the states: Tasmania had a relatively low mean income, while the ACTT had the highest mean income in all the regions.  

Single parent families and young people continue to be disproportionally disadvantaged compared to the rest of the community. 

Poverty was more common among children in single-parent families than among children in couple-parent families.  

For those aged over 65, poverty is both more prevalent and more persistent, especially for women. Welfare reliance is higher among people aged 65 and over than among people aged 18 to 64. 

Working Lives:

Between 2001-2008, employment participation had been rising for most of the population. 

For women, the employment rate reached 74.2 percent in 2019 — a record high, while men’s employment peaked at 83.6 percent in 2008. 

The proportion of men employed full-time reached 68.2 percent in 2019, while the proportion of women employed full-time reached 40.3 percent in 2019. 

Roughly 71.6 percent of young people who are not in the labour force or studying say they are undertaking caring duties, have a disability or experience health barriers.

Housework is the largest form of unpaid work, averaging roughly 10 hours per week, followed by caring for one’s own children. 

In 2019, the average unpaid working time of women was 60.8 hours per week where the youngest child was aged under 6. For men, it was 31.6 hours per week. 

Where the youngest child was aged 6 to 12, it was 43.3 hours per week for women and 27.1 hours for men.

Where the youngest child was aged 13 to 17, it was 33.6 hours per week for women and 22.4 hours per week for men.

In heterosexual couples with children, women continue to do 21 hours more unpaid work at home compared with men.

Women feel more time stressed than men:

Since 2001, the proportion of women who feel time stressed “often” or “almost always” has remained at roughly 38 percent, while the proportion of men feeling similarly time stressed has fallen from 34 percent to 29 percent. 

Psychological distress: 

The latest report also shows Australians are becoming increasingly vulnerable to psychological distress.

People with lower levels of education are more likely to be in distress compared to people with higher levels of education. 

23 percent of women reported they were in distress, while for men, it stood at 19 percent. 

Academic Dr Ferdi Botha, from Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic and Social Research, said employment, economic wellbeing and regular social contact were clear determinants of psychological wellbeing.  

“As your income goes up, your likelihood of psychological distress decreases,” Dr Botha said. “And, compared to those who see family and friends every three months at most, people who see family and friends at least once per week are about 10 percentage points less likely to experience psychological distress.” 

Psychological distress has also become more evidenced among young people. Thirty percent of 15 to 24 year olds said they were in distress in 2019, compared to 21 percent in 2007.

Twenty-one percent of Indigenous women experienced psychological distress, while those who have migrated from non-English speaking countries are 3.9 percent more likely to experience distress than people born in Australia. 


Australians are smoking significantly less today than in 2001. Today, eleven percent of Australians smoke daily compared to almost 19 percent in 2001. 

Obesity however is rising with 59 percent of people overweight or obese, a growth from 54 percent in 2006. 

Just over a third of people exercise for 30 minutes at least three times per week, but not every day of the week. 

The statistic was among several revealed in study which tells the stories of the same group of Australian citizens over several years.

This year’s HILDA, conducted by the Melbourne Institute and funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services, is the country’s only nationally representative longitudinal household study. 

You can read the full report here.

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