Children say fathers are working too long

19 May 2017By david

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SBS World News Radio: As Australians continue to juggle their work/life balance, new research is suggesting it's becoming even more difficult for fathers.

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Hugh Boulter works long days as a banker and says he's unable to be as involved with his son, James, as he would like.

"It brings a tear to your eye there is a level of guilt that's associated with working hard and having other community commitments like I do, and look you know I lead a number of organisations that are parent based to do with education and that takes up a lot of time."

While James agrees his dad spends too long at the office, he understands it's necessary.

"My dad is very involved in my life but there are certain aspects where I'd like him to be more involved. Probably sport and I guess personal chats."

Professor Lyndall Strazdins, from the Australian National University, observed around 3,000 fathers and their children as part of her study.

She found one in three Australian children aged 11-13 think their father works too much.

"Fathers are really wanting to be more connected and more engaged in terms of their relationships with their children but they're struggling to do that and we brought into that not only what father's are saying about that struggle and that dilemma but how their children were also experiencing that Dilemma."

Professor Strazdins also found one in eight children wishes dad could spend less time at the office.

And half of all fathers she surveyed have admitted they regularly spend more than 44 hours in the office each week.

It's a habit she says it hard to break, no matter how much a father may want to.

"I think we need to realise that it's very hard for people to say no to long hours if that's what they're expected to do to hold on to their job or to get the work done. So behind those long work hours are a whole lot of structural drivers in our labour market."

Given the time parents spend at work is only getting longer, researchers believe Australia should shift to a different working model, like those in use in some European countries.

For nearly two decades France has had a 35-hour working week, while in Finland the majority of men and women both work full-time, but with fewer hours.

Mr Boulter wonders whether Australia will ever be able to shorten its working week.

"It's hard to know, I mean I think Australians have a wonderfully strong work ethic and I do think to some extent employers do take advantage of that, but my wife and I we both work the same hours but they're long hours and our kids don't know any different."

 

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