What is the typical Australian family and how do they fit in todays home market, how has it changed over the last couple of decades and what direction will it take in the comming years?

The Male Role

Australia has more ‘house husbands’ than ever before, according to new research into the changing shape of modern families.

The latest AMP.NATSEM Income and Wealth ReportModern Family shows that one in four Australianhouseholds now have a female as their major breadwinner – 140,000 more households than 10 years ago. The report, which analyses data from a variety of sources spanning from 2001 to 2011, found that the proportion of families with both parents working has risen dramatically, with 58 per cent of all ‘couple with children’ families having both parents in the workforce, compared to 40 per cent in the 1980s.

Australian couples are also more likely to live together before marriage, and even then the nation’s annual marriage rate has dropped from 6.6 marriages per 1,000 people to 5.5 in the past decade. ‘Blended’ and step-families are on the increase, yet divorce rates in Australia have stabilised at 2.2 divorces per 1,000 people and marriages are lasting longer – on average 12 years, up from 10 years in 1991.

AMP Chief Customer Officer Paul Sainsbury said today’s modern family is almost unrecognisable from the Mum, Dad and a couple of children households of recent decades. “Today’s modern family is complex and diverse”, Mr Sainsbury said.

“Living alongside more traditional families are blended and step-families, single parent families, de facto couples and same-sex families.” The report revealed that more than half of all Australians support equal rights for same-sex couples in relation to marriage and children, an increase of 14 percentage points in just over five years.

The number of same-sex couples has increased 72 per cent in 10 years, with most of this growth coming from non-metropolitan areas. This significant increase is likely to be driven by same-sex couples being more comfortable about disclosing their relationship.

NATSEM Principal Research Fellow and lead author of the report Rebecca Cassells said young people are no longer expected to marry in their early twenties, in a religious ceremony, or have three or four kids cared for at home by the mother while the husband heads off to work. “Today’s modern family usually starts with a couple living together before marriage, perhaps deciding to delay having children, and when they do start a family, while it’s more common for women to be the primary carer, most mothers will quickly return to work, at least part-time,” Ms Cassells said.

“Given the enormous changes that have occurred over the past century, we can only begin to imagine how families will evolve in coming years,” she concluded.