The Sydney and Melbourne suburbs that do the most housework

The Sydney and Melbourne suburbs that do the most housework

Don’t want to do any housework? Then live in the inner suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne.

Residents of Australia’s wealthiest areas are also the most likely to do the least amount of chores per week.

One-third of the residents in Waverley and Woollahra in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and in Melbourne’s coastal ring of Port Phillip and Stonnington do fewer than five hours of unpaid domestic work every seven days.

In contrast, those local government areas on the fringes of Australia’s two largest cities have the highest rates of housework.

If you are searching for the Sydneysiders and Melburnians pumping out more hours per week of cleaning, cooking and washing than anywhere else head to Nillumbik, the Mornington Peninsula and the Yarra Ranges or Ku-ring-gai, Hornsby, the Hills Shire and Campbelltown in Sydney.

Here, one-in-10 male and female residents aged 15 and over are doing 30 hours or more per week of housework.

The census figures obtained for Fairfax Media by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show a sharp divide between inner and outer suburbs, where contrasts exist on socioeconomic lines, but also on the size of homes and properties and the families that occupy them.

Areas dominated by couples with children with one parent working full time, such as Campbelltown in Sydney’s south-west or the Yarra Ranges north of Melbourne tend to have higher rates of domestic work in the home.

Likewise, areas with an influx of young professional couples such as North Sydney, Sydney’s inner west or Stonnington, have avoided both children and the cleaning and cooking that comes with them.

Unsurprisingly, dwelling sizes also play a role in the level of attention required to maintain them.

In Cardinia in Melbourne’s east and in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire you are more likely to live in a house that has four or more bedrooms than in any other type of dwelling.

But you are also three times as likely to do 15-29 hours of housework a week compared to your inner city dwellers where there are few four bedroom properties in sight and up to 70 per cent of the population lives in an apartment.

On the North Shore, the director of Fresh as Daisy cleaners, Fiona Carter, said she had noticed an increase in clients from two income households and those with “exceptionally large houses” with four or five bedrooms or more.

“People are going out, working long hours and the last thing they want to do is spend a long time cleaning,” she said.

Communities with large migrant communities such as Fairfield and Cumberland in Sydney and Greater Dandenong in Melbourne are also proportionately more likely to have a large number of residents doing zero hours of housework [36-39 per cent] while up to 9 per cent do 30 hours or more of housework each week.

“My guess is that these are migrant groups who are probably marginalised in the economy, so the result is that women stay at home and take of the kids and you have a very traditional division of housework and paid work,” said the University of Melbourne’s Dr Leah Ruppanner.

“The first question is do the women actually want to to enter the labour market? Two, if they do, are there employment mechanisms and enough government support that allow them to find employment?”

While the census figures do not capture whether the majority of housework is undertaken by females, we know most of them are women due to previous research by the bureau which showed women spent almost twice as much time on household work as men did.

Based on those 2006 figures, the typical Australian woman spends between five and 14 hours a week doing unpaid domestic housework, while men do fewer than five.

The trouble is it has been more than 10 years since the last social trends survey was undertaken, so we don’t know if society is spreading out housework more equally now.

Mornington Peninsula resident Heidi Duel estimates she was doing 30 hours unpaid housework a week while looking after her ageing mother and her young children.

“With the kids, I was cleaning up for four people.”

Even now, she estimates she spends 15 hours a week cleaning up, on top of her job as an education consultant.

“Because I am a single parent family, a lot of the load does fall on me.”

Dr Ruppanner’s research found it was important to not write off the statistics “as the bemoans of well-resourced first world problems”.

“Housework and the mental labour associated with its organisation have real and long-term economic consequences, particularly for women’s employment,” she said.

“The consequences of this are that women are making decisions based on gendered norms, it means they are investing more of their time in unpaid labour which means you lose human capital within the economy.”

She said a second child could knock a woman out of the labour force for a decade and the economy was at a tipping point thanks to an ageing population coupled with a high divorce rate.

“It’s quite profound the huge number of women are entering retirement with no super because they have been left out of the market for their whole working lives,” she said.

“That’s fine when marriages stay together but the minute women are no longer in a marital union is the minute they are in poverty.

“It’s not just about doing the dishes or the grocery shopping, it hedges on the nation’s economic vitality.”

With Angus Smith

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