Daughters’ lives better, poll says

Most Australian women believe their lives are more fulfilled than their mothers’ and that they have a good balance between work and family – but few thank employers for it, seeing them as unsympathetic to working women’s needs.

In a national Saulwick Age Poll of 800 women taken last weekend, only 14 per cent said they believed most employers were sympathetic to working women’s need to juggle family and other responsibilities.

Forty-five per cent conceded that some employers were sympathetic but almost a third (32 per cent) thought few or none were sympathetic. Younger women were more inclined to see employers as understanding.

The results suggest that while workplace reform remains a priority in the struggle for equal opportunity the changing role of women has improved their lives dramatically.

A total of 73 per cent of women believed that their lives were better than their mothers’, with 40 per cent seeing them as much better. Twenty-one per cent said their lives were about the same, with less than 5 per cent reporting their lives to be worse.

The older a woman was the bigger the difference she reported between her happiness and that of her mother. This could be because the mothers of older women came from a pre-pill generation with fewer opportunities.

Most of the women polled worked outside the home (57 per cent, rising to 70 per cent of those aged under 54). Eighty-seven per cent felt they had a liveable balance between work, family and leisure; 65 per cent rated it as good or very good and 22 per cent as fair.

Labor-voting women were less likely to be satisfied with this aspect of their lot than coalition voters.

Among those who felt their balance was fair, poor or very poor, the main cause of their stress was work expectations (34 per cent), followed by lack of personal fulfilment (20 per cent) and lack of support from their partners (15 per cent).

For 9 per cent, child care was the main problem. Surprisingly, women with no children were only slightly more likely to report having a better balance.

Asked to choose the issue of greatest importance to them from a list of seven, 30 per cent nominated health and 23 per cent the effect on households of the goods and services tax. Education came next (14 per cent), followed by equal opportunity in the workforce (13 per cent).

Similar numbers nominated the environment (7.4 per cent) and child-care issues (6.6 per cent). Only 5 per cent nominated unemployment.

Surveys of this kind are subject to normal sampling variance, which in a sample of 800 could be up to plus or minus 3.5 per cent.

First published in The Age.