It could be kids, not gender, that’s the determining factor in our attitudes toward work care policies in 2020, with young dads more aware than ever that flexible and progressive workplaces matter. But there’s still some work to be done to ensure young men–like young women– are considering this ahead of time.
That’s according to new research released today from the University of Sydney, which examines how young people perceive their future success at work.
A team of researchers from the University’s Australian Women’s Working Futures project surveyed more than 2500 working women and men aged 16 to 40, and representative of the workforce nationally.
According to the results, nearly three-quarters of men with children (71 percent) cited access to work-care policies as ‘very important’ to their future success at work– a similar percentage to female respondents (79%). Encouragingly, the same trend emerged with attitudes to sharing the domestic load.
“Both men and women who are young parents understand the importance of sharing the responsibility for childcare and housework for success at work,” said Lead Author of the research and Associate Professor, Elizabeth Hill.
She sees this research as reflective of a growing solidarity among modern parents and a desire to effectively juggle work and life commitments irrespective of gender.
However, there’s still a noticeable gap between young men and women when it comes to planning ahead.
According to the research, young women are far more likely to consider an employer’s policies and benefits ahead of starting a family than their male counterparts. Young men are waiting till they have children to worry about the juggle and what support they need.
“Young women are making sophisticated and calculated choices about how they manage work and care early on in their careers, even before they have children,” says Hill. “This often includes shifting to lower paid jobs with less responsibility.”
The findings also indicated that some women may be disinclined to take risks in the same way with their careers as men, because of their foresight into the future.
One survey respondent said: “I don’t see myself having kids for another couple of years but if I think of long-term career goals, I have to factor in that I do want [children] eventually and the job I’m in now pays for maternity leave … I’m staying put.”
Despite shifting attitudes, outcomes remain largely the same for women
While more young men are considering the importance of work/care policies in their pursuit to successfully juggle family and career, the situation for women is staying largely the same.
Professor Marian Baird, co-author on the paper, said: “Despite huge labour market changes, the rate of women working full-time hasn’t changed over the past 40 years in Australia. Over the same time, we’ve seen mothers working part-time to accommodate caring responsibility. The fact that women make up almost 70 percent of all part-time employees shows how gendered caring is.”
These concerns were raised by female respondents to the research also, who reported that the unequal burden of childcare limits their earning capacity as part-time workers.
“It’s very much a man’s world … as the ‘mum’ you’re generally the one who has the sick days, who has to pick up from day care and so I can’t take the overtime”, explained one respondent.
The perception gap shown here between young men with and without children suggests a need for deeper research on this topic, and a greater focus on educating young men about the transition to fatherhood.
“Young men without children aren’t planning for their future work and family nearly as meticulously as women,” says Hill.
“Since paid parental leave was introduced in 2010 and dad-and-partner pay in 2013, we’ve seen alarmingly little progress in the work-and-care policy space. This research demonstrates the significant gaps that we need to address for both women and men to succeed in the future.”