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Published 17 April 2012 07:14, Updated 19 April 2012 12:48
There’s another two-speed economy out there. It’s made up of two groups of women.
Group one got married in their 20s, had babies early, and put their careers on hold. Group two are single, career-minded and have delayed marriage and kids – not because they don’t want it, but because – please forgive them – they’ve been studying and working.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics confirms this. Although fertility has been rising sharply over the past decade, more women are waiting until their 30s before they give birth. In 1998, just under one-third were aged 30 years or older. By 2008 this had increased to 42 per cent, and included 15 per cent aged 35 years or more.
Of course some women chose to work part-time and juggle work and family – of Australia’s more than 5 million working women, about 2.4 million are part-time. But most women in their 30s who work full-time, do so because they put careers first, and don’t have babies yet.
The 2010 Australian Social Trends report says women living in the least advantaged areas tend to have their babies at younger ages, while those in the most advantaged areas have their peak levels of fertility in older ages.
What’s unfortunate, though, besides the fact our biological clocks are ticking and our mothers continually remind us it’s time to give birth, is that there’s a stigma attached to women who choose to focus on their careers. Far from celebrating women becoming more educated, working harder, and contributing to our economy, group two is frowned upon for “being selfish”.
Then, when they finally decide to fulfil their God-given duty to procreate, they are penalised at work. There still seems to be an attitude within workplaces that women who take time off to have babies are a financial burden: the fact that women don’t get paid superannuation on maternity leave is a key example. Perhaps if workplaces became more flexible, having babies and working wouldn’t have to be an either-or choice.