Australia Leads the Way on Family-Friendly, Flexible Jobs

Mother and baby at laptop in home office

Flexible working is a term we hear a lot of these days, with many companies promising a better work-life balance for staff. Though ‘flexible’ is indeed a relative term, meaning different things to different people—and policies relating to flexibility, varying greatly. With that in mind, we decided to dig into the data and recognise the occupations that really do offer a better deal for employees.

At Indeed, we mined hundreds of thousands of job postings to identify those jobs that place greatest emphasis on family-friendly or flexible working environments. For Australian workers, these roles aren’t always easy to find: just 12.3% of job postings contain language touting family-friendly or flexible conditions.

All the same, compared to a number of other countries, Australia leads the way when it comes to advertising work-life balance. The share of family-friendly or flexible jobs in Australia ranks ahead of the advanced European economies and the United States.

One factor that may explain this is Australia’s high rate of part-time employment. Part-time work accounts for almost a third of total employment in Australia, putting it third behind the Netherlands and Switzerland among OECD countries. What’s more, part-time jobs have made up almost half of all employment growth over the past five years, a trend that’s helped push labour force participation near a seven-year high.

Australia leads the way on family friendly jobs

The changing demographics of Australia’s labour force help explain the rise of part-time work. Over the past decade, women and older workers have dominated employment growth. These two groups have come to define the shift towards more flexible and family-friendly workplaces. With an ageing workforce and the gradual blurring of traditional gender roles, a family-friendly or flexible working environment can be a useful way to attract a wider group of candidates.

Work-life balance a coveted, yet elusive goal for many Australians

Australia stands out globally when it comes to advertising family-friendly jobs. However work-life balance is a long-coveted, and often elusive goal for many Australian workers. Out of 38 countries, Australians ranked ninth among workers in OECD countries when it comes to working long hours and sixth from last for leisure time. That’s not really reflective of the laid-back lifestyle we like to project to the rest of the world. In addition, almost a quarter of Australians report they’re overemployed, while at the other end of the spectrum, 8.5% of Australian workers say they want to work more hours.

Though, work-life balance is more complicated than simply assessing the total hours worked. It includes policies on such issues as flexible working hours, leave entitlements and ability to work remotely. Some employers more than others recognise the importance of work-life balance and are using it as a selling point to attract candidates.

These are Australia’s most family-friendly or flexible jobs

Focusing on the top 100 occupations (as determined by total job posts), jobs in the healthcare or social care sectors place the greatest emphasis on creating a family-friendly or flexible working environment.

Therapists (of the massage, physical and occupational varieties) are the occupations most likely to offer a family-friendly environment. Medical and public health social workers are in fourth place, while taxi drivers round out the top five. Psychologists and registered nurses also rank highly.

Unfortunately, flexible working hours doesn’t always mean workers can choose their own hours. Sometimes flexible work hours just means you may be working odd hours at your employer’s discretion. Furthermore, casual jobs often lack leave entitlements. So, while these jobs may be flexible, they could be far from family-friendly. The dichotomy between family-friendly and flexible jobs is most likely to be apparent among lower-skilled occupations for which replacing staff is easier.

The most family friendly jobs or flexible jobs In Australia

The most family friendly jobs or flexible jobs In Australia from highest share of job postings: massage therapist; physical therapist; occupational therapist; medical and public health social workers; taxi drivers and chauffeurs; registered nurses; family and general practitioners; food preparation; social and human service assistants; maids and housekeeping cleaners; retail salespersons; personal and home care aides; employment, recruitment and placement specialists; personal financial advisors; dining room and cafeteria attendants and bartender helpers; business operations specialists; dental assistants; executive secretaries and administrative assistants; waiters and waitresses

More broadly, we examined the prevalence of family-friendly or flexible jobs across occupational groups. This is useful since the top twenty jobs in the table are dominated by a small number of occupational groups. While healthcare and social service roles feature prominently, legal positions (a sector notorious for long hours) ranks highly.

For a legal firm, promoting work-life balance could be a useful way to differentiate itself from competitors, particularly in an occupation in which work-life balance isn’t expected. At the other end of the spectrum, the occupational groups with the lowest share of family-friendly or flexible roles are construction at 4.5% and farming, fishing and forestry at 6.9%.

Family-friendly or flexible occupational groups in Australia

The most family-friendly or flexible occupational groups in Australia from highest share of job postings: healthcare practitioners and technical; community and social services; healthcare support; life, physical and social services; food preparation and serving; sales and related; building and grounds cleaning and maintenance; legal; transportation and material moving

To be sure, work-life balance is still an elusive goal for many Australian workers. But for some occupations it’s a key selling point—helping Australia lead the way when it comes to advertising family-friendly perks.

Indeed data on job postings were pulled in early August for Australia, in May for 11 European countries and in late May for the US. To categorise jobs as family-friendly or flexible, descriptions had to include keywords such as work-life-balance, flexible working hours or working remotely. For the European countries, these keywords were searched not only in national languages, but also in English and, if necessary, in additional languages.

What employers promise in their job postings and how the daily work schedule looks might vary greatly. Nevertheless, we assume that mentioning work-life-balance or other keywords related to flexible working arrangements indicates how flexible and family-friendly working conditions actually are.

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