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The characteristics of modern Australian families have shifted significantly in the past decade according to the latest AMP NATSEM report, with women increasingly the breadwinners.

The report analysed data from a variety of sources from 2001 through to 2011, and contains a number of key findings relating to the structure and diversity of the modern family unit. 

The report found that the woman now earns more in wages than her male partner for one in four families. In the past 10 years this figure has increased in Australia from 22.3 per cent in 2001 to 24.2 per cent in 2011.

The report suggested families with low and medium combined incomes were particularly more reliant on female breadwinners. Around 27 per cent of families in the lowest percentile and 25 per cent of middle income families had female breadwinners.

The report found the incomes of same-sex couple families were generally higher than those of opposite-sex couple families. Fifty-five per cent of female same-sex couple families and 65 per cent male same-sex couples had incomes of $2,000 or more per week, compared to the 40 per cent figure of opposite-sex couples.

The number of same-sex couples has increased by 72 per cent in the past 10 years from 19,594 in 2001 to 33,714 in 2011, according to the report. It was also found that more than half of all Australians support equal rights for same-sex couples in terms of marriage and children. This indicates an increase of 14 per cent in the past five years.

The number of blended and stepfamilies has doubled in recent decades. They now account for 11 per cent of Australian families with dependent children, compared to 6.8 per cent in 1986.

AMP chief customer officer Paul Sainsbury said today’s modern family is complex and diverse. 

“Living alongside more traditional families are blended and stepfamilies, single-parent families, de facto couples and same-sex families,” said Mr Sainsbury.

The report found blended and stepfamilies, despite having two potential wage earners in the household unlike single-parent families, were generally worse off than intact families. Blended and stepfamilies on average earn $1,878 per week, $195 less than intact families at $2,073. The report suggested the reason for this could be that households with a lower income or dependent on income support are more likely to separate or divorce.

“The cost of raising children, financial stress from divorce or coping in challenging economic times can have a significant impact on family stability, so it’s important that Australian families have their finances in order before challenges crop up,” Mr Sainsbury said.


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