Politics

Income and wealth report shows pink dollar on the rise

Dan Moss /

A lot has been said today about the rise of the female breadwinner, as pointed out in the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling Income and Wealth Report.

In about a quarter of heterosexual households the female partner brings in more money. Why mention heterosexual? Well the report holds some very interesting news about homosexual relationships too.

While they are being reported in bigger numbers now due to changing attitudes towards homosexuality, they still count for just over 30,000 relationships in Australia, a tiny fraction of the total. But their earnings and disposable incomes are huge and many of the couples have dependent children.

The report combines statistics from the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and more. It presents vital information on changes to the modern family, which anyone looking to structure their business in this area must know about.

The pink dollar

The bottom line is that, according to the 2011 census, people in gay relationships brought in the biggest combined weekly incomes in the country. Roughly 14% of male couples earn between $3000 and $3499 a week. About 19% of female couples earn between $2000 and $2499 a week, followed by about 17% of male couples who earn the same. The next highest earner is female couples again, 16% of whom earn between $1500 and $1999. In the same wage-band, about 15% of heterosexual couples register on the rankings. It’s worth noting before we get too excited that the numbers of reported same-sex relationships count for just over 33,000 nationally.

More people in same-sex relationships are employed full-time than opposite sex couples. In 49% of male couples and 40% of female couples, both work full-time. In opposite sex couples 22% are both in full-time work, and 21% have one in part-time, the other working full-time. The report concludes this difference in work habits is due to age differences in opposite sex couples (they are more likely to be over 55).

If you’re under the assumption there are lower overheads in same-sex couples, due to fewer children or other differences to the stereotypical norm, you might only be a little bit right. More than a fifth of female couples have dependent children, about the same proportion as single parents. The same parenting urge can’t be seen in the stats on male couples though, where only 2.9% of couples have children.

It is fair to say that attitudes to homosexual couples have changed. In the 2001 census roughly 19,594 couples reported their relationship, whereas 10 years later the number has shot up to 33,714.

“Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of Gen Y respondents (those born between 1976 and 1991) believe in equal rights, as does 53 per cent of Gen X (born 1961 to 1975) and 42 per cent of Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1960). This increased support for equal rights occurs right up to the oldest ‘Builder’ generation (born 1906 to 1945), with over three in 10 (31 per cent) now believing that same-sex and heterosexual couples should be treated equally,” the report states.

Splitting up

Couples seem to be getting more patient before calling it quits. Those who separate do so after about 8.7 years – in 1991 they parted ways after 7.4 years. Those who divorce are staying together for about 12.2 years – longer than in 1991 when they split after about 10.3 years. When children are involved, the divorce rate has plummeted from 54.2% in 1991 to 48.3%. So how do we compare to our peers? The French and UK divorce rate was two per 1000 couples in 2009, in the US the rate is 3.4 per 1000 couples. Australia’s divorce rate in 2011 was just over two per 1000, similar to Canada.

The Brady Bunchers

Step and blended families account for about 8.1% of families. Their weekly incomes of $1878 are just below intact families’ at $2073 according to Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia figures, and surveys of attitudes tell us there is still a bit of friction in the new setups. Firstly, 77% of intact families own their houses and 60% of blended or step families own their homes, which the report says is due to some having to sell up during a divorce, but could be due to lower wages.

Another source of friction is living with the other parent’s children. Step-parents, given a low-high 1-10 rating system, ranked their satisfaction with their stepchild at 7.1 out of 10, whereas their satisfaction with their natural child was 8.11 out of 10. Conversely “respondents who had a step-parent were, on average, less satisfied with their relationship with their step-parent than they were with their relationship with their natural parents,” the report states.

Lastly, children are spending more time with their non-custodial parent: 2009-10 marked the first year that more than half of children are staying overnight with their non-guardian parent.

The women who bring home the bacon

A quarter of households in 2011 had a female breadwinner, in that the lady of the house was bringing in more dough than the male. Yes, 76% were still in the traditional structure of male breadwinner, but the numbers of women earners have increased from 22.3% in 2001 to 24.2% in 2011.

Just married

Religious marriages continued their decline as the number of civil ceremonies has risen. In 2011, 70.1% of marriages were civil, and 29.9% were religious. In 1991, 62.4% of marriages were religious while 37.6% were civil. Still on the topic of religion, more than 78% of couples are living together before marrying. The number of marriages has also fallen to 5.5 in 1000 people a year, down from 6.6 in 1000 in 1991.

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