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