Stay-at-home fathers do less childcare than working mothers, research shows

Stay-at-home fathers spend slightly less time on childcare than their working wives.
Stay-at-home fathers spend slightly less time on childcare than their working wives. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Stay-at-home dads remain relatively rare in Australia, and even these men spend slightly less time on child care than their working wives, new research shows.

The study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies also shows the stay-at- home dads take on only slightly more housework than mums working a 35-hour week.

The research found that stay-at-home dad arrangements made up four per cent, or 75,000, of the two-parent, heterosexual families in Australia, while stay-at- home mums accounted for 31 per cent.

Stay-at-home fathers remain relatively rare in Australia.
Stay-at-home fathers remain relatively rare in Australia. Photo: Twitter/dadncharge

Stay-at-home dads and working mothers spent 19 and 21 hours a week on child care, respectively. When it came to housework, these fathers did 28 hours and working mums 23.

"For many, becoming a stay-at-home dad is an economic decision, driven by unemployment, under-employment or disability and not a lifestyle choice to spend more time on parenting," the institute's director Anne Hollonds said.

The figures are based on more 2500 parents surveyed between 2002 and 2015 in the University of Melbourne-run Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia study.

AIFS senior research fellow Jennifer Baxter said financial pressure often stopped men from becoming the primary carer, and that they were more likely to take on the role when children were older.

"Child care demands are much greater in families with young babies and young children, and that's when mums are more likely to be at home," she said.

But it remained unclear why stay-at-home dads didn't take over more of the housework, Dr Baxter said.


She said the fact that breadwinning mums worked less than their male counterparts - an average of 35 and 51 hours a week, respectively - could help explain it.

"It's whoever has the time available ... but perhaps in some families there are quite gendered roles about who does what," she said.

"There are unanswered things about what those (stay-at-home) dads are doing that's not captured in our data."

Dr Baxter also said that the proportion of dads who stayed at home was unlikely to increase significantly.

"We won't see much change around stay-at-home dads... because of the financial pressure on families and the need for them to have two parents in paid work," she said.

"A more likely thing that we could see it that fathers may make more use of flexible work hours too, so they could take up more of the child care and more of the housework."