Why can’t an Aussie dad be more like a Dane?

It looks very bad, the study that shows Australian dads on average spending a measly six minutes alone with their kids Monday through Friday. Just over one minute a day! Overall, they spend just shy of one hour each working week caring for their kids, but 90 per cent of that care is done alongside the mother, social researcher Lyn Craig finds in a new paper, Fare Care, Father Share in International Perspective.

Thankfully, they spend longer with the kids at the weekend but, again, mostly as a family unit. And when they do look after the kids on their own, these laid-back dads rarely do “drudge work” such as feeding, bathing or taking them to and from school or childcare; no, the scoundrels grab the nice jobs like going to the park or to sport.

Meanwhile their wives are spending three hours a week just looking after the children, on top of child-related housework. The resulting gap in care work is greater than between mums and dads in the US, Italy, France and Denmark -- although even in those countries fathers spend little time alone with their children. No-one, apparently, comes near Danish men, who average about 17 per cent of care because a lot more wives work full time.

Dr Craig seems keen on the Danish division of labour. There, almost 65 per cent of couple households have two full-time workers, compared with 20 per cent in Australia. Nearly half of couple households in Australia have a full-time/part-time model, compared with just 12 per cent in Denmark, and this is encouraged by family tax benefits and the absence of paid maternity leave. The resulting “specialisation of women in family care and men in paid work” is not a good thing, we gather, although it does partly explain why the men’s statistics look so bad.

However, there is one thing in which Australian couples beat the Danes, Italians and others: overall they spend more time caring for their own children, even though they tend to work longer hours. In other words, Australian children spend less time in childcare, which would not be the case if their mothers were more like Danish women.

So, although Australian women would probably like their husbands to take the kids off their hands more, it is not at all clear that working towards some kind of equality in care work would be better for the children. ~ The Australian, Oct 20



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