The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2022 included new ISSP questions from the Family and Changing Gender Roles module surveyed cross-nationally. 

Australians have comprehensively moved on from the traditional norms about the organisation of the household. Less than 10% of respondents now agree that ‘A man’s job is to earn money; a woman’s job is to look after the home and family’. Some 76% disagree including 52% of respondents who strongly disagree. Figure 1 shows that disagreement with traditional norms is higher among younger respondents (87%) and women (79%).

Respondents also appear to endorse longer periods of paid leave for parents with new born children. In 2023, the federal government announced a gradual extension of its means-tested paid parental leave scheme to 26 weeks under the federal scheme with super being paid as part of that leave. However, some forms of employer-funded parental leave in Australia (under enterprise agreements, for e.g.) are paid at full salary and other countries have more generous paid leave schemes that also last longer.

Asked about whether ‘a couple who both work full-time and now have a new born child’ should get paid leave when ‘one of them stops working for some time to care for their child’, some 83% of AuSSA respondents agreed. A very high 96% of respondents under 50 years agree with this proposition. Agreement is lower among respondents aged 50 years and over but remains still high at 70%. There is high support from both men and women, with women more likely to agree than men (88% v 78%).

Respondents who agreed with the proposition about paid leave were then asked to indicate how long that paid leave should be. Note that the question does not ask respondents to indicate who should pay or at what level this leave should be paid. When respondents were asked how long should paid leave be, most respondents indicated it should be over 6 months and up to 12 months (42%) with a further 15% thinking it should be 12 months or longer. Younger respondents were most likely to prefer longer periods than 6 months (64% in total) with some 62% of women preferring the same.

Respondents were also asked about how paid leave should be divided between the mother and the father where ‘both (male and female parents) are in a similar work situation and are eligible for paid leave’. Overall, 50% favoured the mother, but some 37% thought leave should be split equally mother and father. That rises slightly among younger respondents (42%) and was higher among men (40%).

OECD data suggests Australia and NZ fathers are not significant users of parental leave schemes. AuSSA Insights suggest that there may be untapped support for expanding parental leave entitlements and further encouraging fathers to use these.

Shaun Wilson for the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes

The AuSSA sample was derived from the electoral roll and has a total sample of 924 respondents. Data was weighted by Census 2021 age, gender, and education characteristics as well as 2022 vote recall to provide a representative sample of the Australian voting public. Totals differ from 100 due to rounding. 


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