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Major reason one group of Aussies can’t work

Motherly tenderness
A lack of affordable child care is a major reason why parents aren’t returning to work.

Child care remains the biggest barrier as to why women aren’t entering the full-time workforce in Australia, new data has revealed, with the vast majority of unemployed parents being mothers.

About 9.1 million people in Australia were not employed on a full-time basis in 2022-23, according to ABS labour force data released on Monday. A significant bulk, or 85 per cent, of the two million parents not working full-time nationwide were women.

About 36 per cent of Aussie women said the main reason they couldn’t start work was because they were caring for their children, while for 36 per cent of men, it was due to a long-term sickness or disability.

Motherly tenderness
A lack of affordable child care is a major reason why parents aren’t returning to work.

The newly released figures come after the Productivity Commission urged the federal government to allow children under five in Australia access to at least three days of free child care per week.

In a draft report released last Thursday, the commission estimated universal child care would help to push an extra 20,700 people – mostly women – into the workforce.

The most important incentive to work for women was the ability to work part-time hours, while for men it was finding a job that matched their skills and experience, the data showed.

Financial assistance with child care remains a core selling point to lure parents back into the workforce. That measure is only slightly behind the ability to work more part-time hours and school hours.

“This data helps to paint a picture of barriers that people face, based on their experiences and perspective, and their views on what incentives would be important,” ABS head statistician Bjorn Jarvis said.

“However, the data also provides important insights into preferences. About 40 per cent of out-of-work parents said they preferred not to work and to stay home to look after children,“ he said.

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About 730,000 part-time workers report wanting more hours.

Of the 770,000 people with a long-term health condition who were out of work, only about one in five said their long-term health condition was the reason they weren’t working.

The most important incentive to get them into work was the ability to work part-time hours. For young people, studying was a core deterrent from full-time work, while for people aged in their mid-20s-to-30s it was caring for children.

Of the 1.6 million people who wanted a job or more hours and were available to start, just under half were actively looking for work.