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Angus Livingston, AAP National Economics Writer
(Australian Associated Press)
A decade of stagnant wages and longer commutes to work have Australians increasingly unhappy with their work-life balance.
They’re also being diagnosed with depression in record numbers – but the federal government insists there is room for optimism.
The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey has been tracking 17,500 people in 9500 households since 2001, revealing insights about trends in Australian families.
“Commute times are much longer and we’re struggling to find a better balance between work and family commitments,” the report found.
“Child care continues to contribute to family pressure, the number of young adults living at home is on the up and there has been a significant increase in diagnosed depression and anxiety.”
The Melbourne University report, released on Tuesday, showed a substantial increase in depression diagnoses across all age groups, most notably in young people.
It also found incomes have stagnated since the Global Financial Crisis.
“The income of someone in the middle has basically remained unchanged since 2012,” Professor Roger Wilkins said.
“That was on the back of very substantial rises, particularly in the mid 2005 to 2009 range in particular, we saw very large increases in household incomes, but since 2012 there’s been basically no growth.”
The coalition pointed to its $100 billion, 10-year infrastructure plan aimed at tackling congestion, and its income tax cuts designed to get more money back into people’s pockets.
Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil said income growth had been “shocking” for eight years.
“This is in a country where we’ve seen unparalleled economic growth over a much longer period of time – 28 years,” she told ABC radio.
But Treasurer Josh Frydenberg insisted there was good news in the HILDA survey, particularly for women in the workforce, with a record 71 per cent in employment.
He said the unemployment rate was down since the the survey was completed, and he argued that while poverty figures have increased since 2016, they are down overall since 2007.
The survey found commuter times are also up, with mainland commuters spending an average of 66 minutes travelling to and from work every day.
The report found fathers with two or more children were more likely to have the longest commutes and they were more likely to be unhappy with their pay, job and work-life balance.
But Dr Lass says the number of fathers with high levels of “work-family conflict” has dropped since 2001, while the number of women suffering such conflict has risen.
The data reveals working hours are behind the gender gap – the longer hours a parent works, the higher their work-family conflict score.
“Once we account for working hours, it is mothers who have the highest levels of work-family conflict,” Dr Lass said.