Source: The Australian, Thursday, November 10, 1994, p.3


Both parents jobless in 10pc of traditional families

 
By FIONA CARRUTHERS 
 
ONE in 10 traditional families 
has both parents out of work 
government figures released 
yesterday show. 
 
In the Year of the Family, almost 
19 per cent of Australia's 
children aged under 15 
(704,000 children) live in a 
family with no breadwinner. 
 
And most of their parents spent 
the past 14 months searching 
unsuccessfully for work. 
 
The National Council of the 
International Year of the Fam- 
ily chairwoman, Professor Bet- 
tina Cass, said the plight of 
these families was the most 
urgent social issue facing the 
Federal Government. 
 
"The needs of families with 
unemployed workers must be of 
paramount consideration," 
Professor Cass said yesterday. 
 
"About 50 per cent of the long- 
term unemployed have 
families; if we are ever going to 
get them back into the 
workforce we need to recognise 
their needs." 
 
Professor Cass said unemployed 
parents required education and 
retraining programs, strong 
welfare support even when they 
did move back into the 
workforce, as well as better 
family provisions from 
employers, such as childcare. 
 
She said policies to help these 
families would comprise the 
key plank of the council's end- 
of-year report to the Federal 
Government. Reforms to help 
poverty-stricken families are 
also enshrined in the White 
Paper delivered earlier this 
year, which is in the process of 
implementation. 
 
Figures released by the 
Australian Bureau of Statistics 
in Labour Force Status and 
Other Characteristics of Fam- 
ilies show that in June this 
year, one-quarter (1.15 million) 
of Australian families had no 
working members. 
 
However, most of these were 
aged couples and sole parents. 
 
The number of traditional fam- 
ilies falling into the category 
of unemployed and welfare- 
dependent began to rise in 
1989. It increased by 50 per 
cent between 1989 and 1993. 
 
Since then it has dropped by less 
than one percentage point, 
however the ABS is not 
predicting a rapid decline as the 
recession eases. 
 
An ABS spokesman said: "When 
you come out of recession, 
things get better for a small 
percentage of people; there is 
always a group who continue to 
suffer under the improving 
conditions." 
 
The Rolfe family were despon- 
dent yesterday when told they 
were not alone in their struggle 
to survive without a bread- 
winner. 
 
"It doesn't make it any easier," 
said Ms Sandra Rolfe, who 
cannot work because of high 
blood pressure and whose 
husband, Alan, lost his job as a 
painter four years ago due to 
deafness. 
 
"Nobody has offered him any- 
thing since, we've had a very 
hard time." 
 
What little money they receive 
through the disability pension 
goes into food, renting a mod- 
est home in Sydney's western 
suburbs and buying clothes. 
Any extra cash is saved for the 
family's number one priority: 
keeping the two teenage girls, 
Melissa and Kylie, at school 
until Year 12. 
 
The family receives aid and 
support from the Anglican 
Home Mission Society. A 
society spokesman, Mr Evan 
Coombs, said he believed in 
many ways the Year of the 
Family had only depressed 
battlers like the Rolfes. 
 
"It has helped in terms of drawing 
government notice but it has 
also heightened the stress of 
many families in need," Mr 
Coombs said. 
 
"They tend to be confronted with 
the perfect model family like 
the Joneses from Sydney's 
North Shore, and when they 
compare it to their own 
predicament it can be very 
depressing." 
 
The rate of unemployment for 
sole parents was much higher, 
with 58 per cent of one-parent 
families out of work. The 
average duration of 
unemployment for lone parents 
with depend-ants was 53 weeks. 
 
For couple families, husbands 
spent an average of 73 weeks 
looking for a job; while wives 
spent 64 weeks. 
 
The survey found as of June, 51 
per cent of couple families had 
both partners in the workforce 
and 28 per cent had just one 
partner in the workforce. 
 
Sandra and Alan Rolfe with their daughters Melissa, left, and Kylie . . . '


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