Women are taking a greater role in generating income for households, with a quarter of those in two income households earning more than men according to the latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey.
Female workforce participation is at its highest level since the survey began in 2001, increasing from 69.5 per cent in 2016 to 71.4 per cent in 2017 and the proportion of households in which the woman earns more than the man has risen to 25 per cent in 2017 from 22 per cent in 2001.
Despite this, there remains a substantial difference in the incomes of female breadwinners and male breadwinner households.
Co-author of the HILDA survey, Roger Wilkins says: “So in male breadwinner households the average salary of the male is about $108,000 per year whereas in the female breadwinner households their average income is about $74,000. So they tend to be poorer households.”
Female breadwinners are more prevalent in non-urban areas, have non-dependent children and along with lower disposable income, their employment is less secure than their male counterparts.
Only 28 per cent of couples without dependent children have a female breadwinner compared to the 15 per cent of couples with dependent children that have a female breadwinner.
An average of 61 per cent of female employees are working in non-standard employment compared to 37 per cent of males.
The HILDA survey says: “What is considered ‘non-standard’ from a definitional point is therefore in fact the actual standard for working women in Australia.”
Non-standard employment includes fixed-term contracts, casual employment, temporary agency employment and permanent part time.
The weekly earnings of female employees increased by 25.2 per cent since the survey’s inception which is higher than the mean weekly earnings of females working full time and higher than the 15.9 per cent increase in mean hourly earnings of females working part-time.
The survey says: “Thus, mean weekly hours of female part-time employees increased over the period and/or the proportion employed full-time increased.”
Overall, Australia’s median household incomes have fallen $542 lower than the 2009 median to $80,095 in 2017. However the average income has increased by 3.5 per cent or $3156 over the same period.
Wilkins says: “When we look at overall measures of household income, we see that the broad trend in terms of income levels is stagnation, that we’ve seen very little change in the median income.”
The survey is funded by the department of social services and orchestrated by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. HILDA began in 2001 and is a household-based longitudinal study of the same 17,000 that are surveyed each year.