While couples are now taking longer to get married, moving in together first, their marriages are more likely to last longer. Photo: Eddie Jim Traditional families on the move

Just like the TV series of the same name, a report on Australia’s “Modern Family” has shown a significant shift away from the nuclear family make-up of mum, dad and two kids.

The AMP NATSEM Income and Wealth Report Modern Family found a doubling in the number of Australians identifying as gay, more couples living together before they were married and a considerable increase in the number of families where a female was the major income earner.

“The first big headline is that one in four Australian households has a female as their major breadwinner,” lead author and principal research fellow Rebecca Cassell said.

“Both parents work in about 60 per cent of families and that’s been increasing quite considerably over time.

“We now have about half a million families where the female earns more in wages than her male partner.

“It’s increased by about 140,000 families in the last decade.”

However, WA has gone backwards in this respect, with mining wages making a “big difference”.

In the years before the mining boom gained momentum in WA, female breadwinners were more common than elsewhere in Australia.

But in the decade between 2001 and 2011, WA households became the least common to have a female leading the money-making charge – the state average now sits at 18 per cent, compared to the national average which grew to 24 per cent.

“A lot of the driver of this is the mining boom,” Ms Cassell said.

“We know there are really big wages and as it’s gained momentum men’s wages have really soared.

“Women’s wages have increased substantially too in those sectors but not at the same rate.”

As support for same-sex marriage grows, so does the number of Australians willing to identify as being gay.

The report found a national increase of 72 per cent in the number of same-sex couples over the 10-year period, but in WA the increase in lesbian couples was even more stark.

“It’s not that more people are gay or more people are homosexual, it’s they’re more willing and comfortable to disclose their relationship status,” Ms Cassell said.

The reported number of same-sex female couples in Perth grew almost 100 per cent and male same-sex couples grew 68 per cent.

In regional WA the number of female couples grew at the higher rate of 110 per cent (male couples grew 41 per cent).

Ms Cassell said the higher rate for females in regional areas was because the metro area was starting from a higher base of gay couples.

“In regional areas it’s always been something that’s a little bit taboo and not everyone is going to accept you,” she said.

“But more and more there’s been a movement to disclose because gay and lesbian groups want to be recognised, they want to say ‘here we are, we’re actually a substantial population and please recognise us’.”

The number of people who supported gay rights in terms of marriage and children grew 14 per cent, over half a decade, to sit at 52 per cent.

While younger people were more likely to support gay rights and gave the biggest increase in support, researchers saw older people were changing their opinions.

“We’ve looked at the responses of the same people over time, which is absolutely fantastic because within these generations they’re changing their minds,” Ms Cassell said.

“They’re changing their output and the support is changing within a generation.”

Two thirds of Gen Y respondents support gay rights compared to just over half of Gen X, 42 per cent of Baby Boomers and a third of the “Builder” generation (born 1906 – 1945).

“Of course the younger generation are more supporting and more encouraging of being different,” Ms Cassell said.

“They come from a different generation with different values and different norms, but it’s not limited to the younger generation and yes, our mums and dads and grandparents are changing their minds and are supportive of equal rights for homosexual relationships.”

More than one in five female same-sex couples reported having children in 2011.

While couples are now taking longer to get married, moving in together first, their marriages are more likely to last longer, Ms Cassell said.

“WA, compared to the national average, it’s got a higher proportion of people cohabitating or living together before they get married,” she said.

“It’s around 83 per cent and nationally it’s about 78 per cent.

“We think religion has a little bit to do with it – some states have higher religious affiliation than others and it could also be whether people have the means to get married.”

More than 70 per cent of people getting married were choosing civil ceremonies over their religious counterparts, a huge jump from 38 per cent in 1991.

The decade also saw the length of marriage increase from 10 to 12 years.

“A number of things can be driving that – we know that the marriage rate has been decreasing over time as well,” Ms Cassell said.

“So people entering into marriage enter into these formal relationships out of quite a lot of thought given to the union.

“They’re very serious about that relationship so they’re less likely to divorce.”

WA’s divorce rate of 2.1 was marginally lower than the 2011 national average of 2.2 per 1000 people.Follow WAtoday on Twitter

This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.

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