Females contribute most to Australia’s 'unpaid economy'; Mums held back from getting paid jobs

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A woman stands near hot dogs stands as vendors celebrate a newly opened exhibit at Ellis Island highlighting the immigrant history. Reuters/Lucas Jackson

A new report indicates that several females in Australia are held back from getting paying jobs because of geographic isolation and a $565 billion “unpaid economy.” The study by business consultant PwC reveals that women, mums in particular, want to have a paying job. However, the lack of local jobs and weak transport links prevent them from being employed.

Seventy-six percent of women do childcare. Two-thirds of domestic works are also done by females, 69 percent of looking after adults and 57 percent of volunteering.

The nation’s unpaid economy capital was revealed to be the outer western suburb Point Cook. The area made 878.2 million in value in 2011. South Morang with $867.6 million is also included in the top ten along with Craigieburn-Mickleham and Werribee with $746.5 million and $711.9 million, respectively.

The report notes that these locations were either new or emerging suburbs. “They attract young (often young professional) families with house-and-land packages who want the space but can’t afford to buy elsewhere in Melbourne,” it reads.

It was stated in the PwC report that these new suburbs usually do not have the same transport linkages back into the labour markets such as Southbank, Docklands and CBD. Furthermore, transport policies must take into account that the travel needs of the unpaid economy were not the same as the transport networks intended to meet the peak-hour requirements of paid workers.

The report further stresses that requirements of the unpaid economy gets an appropriate weight in decisions related to policy and investment. The PwC said this could mean less reliance upon the traditional understanding of economic activity. It becomes “very difficult” for parents to re-enter the labour market or for both parents to be employed given the need to accommodate childcare or school logistics. Prue Le Cornu from Point Cook, for instance, told the Herald Sun she considered being employed again when her children became older. However, she felt it was only wishful thinking.

Cornu earned a degree in criminology, something she would love to use. “The issue is, there’s going to be an eight- to 10-year window between my degree and returning to work,” she told the news outlet. She is also worried that she will be seen as less flexible and more expensive than younger job seekers that graduated recently.

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