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Media Release

June 27 2007

Embargoed till 1 pm 27 June 2007

Australian workers feel the work-life squeeze

One in four Australians are not satisfied with work-life balance says UniSA's Prof Barbara PocockMore than half of Australian employees surveyed in the first national survey of work-life outcomes – the Australian Work Life Index (AWALI) – believe that work sometimes, often or always affects their lives outside of work.

Men report more spillover from work to life and less satisfaction with their work-life interaction, reflecting their longer hours. However, women feel much more pressed for time, reflecting their greater unpaid work.

The survey conducted by Professor Barbara Pocock, Dr Natalie Skinner and Dr Philippa Williams from the University of South Australia’s Centre for Work + Life at the Hawke Research Institute, gathered the views of 1435 randomly selected working Australians in March 2007.

The research is the first of what will be an annual survey of work-life interaction in Australia. Future surveys will be funded by the Australian Research Council and the South Australian and Western Australian Governments.

“Increasingly Governments are aware and attentive to work-life issues because they are central to well-being and to planning around labour markets, health and community services.” Prof Pocock says.

“The two spheres of work and life interact in complex ways. They do not sit neatly beside one another in separate spheres – they overlap and the boundaries between work and life outside of work are increasingly porous.

“This research gives us a base-line measure of work-life interaction in Australia and future surveys will show how it is changing and how Australians are managing the competing demands of modern work and life.

Professor Pocock says the first survey confirms that work-life pressures are widespread.

“More than 60 per cent of the sample group felt work regularly kept them from spending the amount of time they would like with family or friends,” she says. Only 5.5 per cent thought their personal life often or always took time away from their work, suggesting that work pulls more from life outside work than life pulls from work.

“The study shows that work affects more than the individual worker - its effects flow across the community with just under half of all respondents believing that work interfered with their ability to build and maintain community connections and friendships sometimes, often or always.”

Another key finding is that many Australians feel frequently rushed for time.

“This is especially significant for women,” Prof Pocock says, with more than 55 per cent of women reporting that they often or always felt pressed or rushed compared to just under 50 per cent of men.

“Women with children are the worst effected with almost 73 per cent often or always feeling there aren’t enough hours in the day.

“And part time work is not necessarily the cure-all people believe it to be. The survey found that women with children who worked long part-time hours (16 to 34 hours per week) had worse work-life outcomes than similar women who worked full-time.”

Other factors affecting work-life interaction include their hours, job security and job quality, how long people travel to and from work, their occupation, and where they live.

Despite the high levels of spillover from work to life the survey revealed that three quarters of Australians reported they were satisfied with their work-life balance.

“It seems that many Australians are willing to deal with a certain amount of spillover from work to life outside work, but for one in four it is a real problem, and especially for those working long hours,” Prof Pocock says.

A copy of the first full AWALI report, Work, Life and Time (PDF - download Adobe Acrobat), is available for download.

Professor Barbara Pocock was recently named the winner in the Society category of The Bulletin magazine's 100 smart Australians for 2007.

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