Room for work-life balance improvement

by 03 Aug 2010

The work-life balance of Australian workers is worsening despite the growing awareness around its importance.

According the latest national survey of Australian workers by the University of South Australia, a quarter of full-time women and one fifth of full-time men are dissatisfied with their work-life balance – significantly more than three years ago.

Professor Barbara Pocock, a co-author of the report, said the economic slowdown has not been associated with less work-life interference for working Australians.

“Unfortunately negative work-life interference appears to be recession-proof.

“Despite the 2008-09 international economic downturn, and a decline in total hours worked, work-life interference has not declined. Australian GDP has continued the relatively robust growth of the past decade. However, there has been a redistribution of GDP from wages to profits, with the profit share of GDP now at a record level, in part reflecting falling unit labour cost and rising employee productivity.”

The Work and Life Index 2010 shows that over one quarter of full-time workers put in 48 hours or more a week, and many employees are working more than they would prefer. Most workers – including older employees – are not eager to increase their hours of work.

Pocock said while policy makers are interested in increasing labour market participation, many workers have other plans, often because their workplaces are too demanding, inflexible or make it hard to combine work with the rest of life.

Fellow report author, Natalie Skinner, said: “Many Australian workers want to cut their hours – and this will improve work-life outcomes for many, especially those working long hours, or more than they would like. For others, improved flexibility, better quality jobs and more supportive supervision and work cultures will be beneficial.”

Commenting on the report, ACTU president Ged Kearney said working Australians are under too much pressure at work and families are suffering as a result.

“The pressure of work, casualisation and a lack of job security means workers are under enormous stress and their families are suffering.

“It’s getting harder, not easier for working people and this is having a negative effect on children, our families and the whole Australian community.”


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