Long hours and bad work culture drives Australian dad away from the kids: study

Geoff Beckett and Gemelu, 2.
Geoff Beckett and Gemelu, 2.  Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

A new study from the Australian National University has found a third of Australian children believe their dads work too much.

The research showed children aged between 11 and 13 years said their fathers worked too much, blaming long hours, night work and weekend shifts.

Lead researcher professor Lyndall Strazdins said it was the first study that compared both the child's and their father's opinion on dad's work life balance.

"Fathers and children are agreeing on what the aspects of his job are actually making it hard [to get time together]," Ms Strazdins said.

Mr Strazdins said the culprits were fathers working long hours: either long days at the office or being called to work weekends.

"Fathers had lots of time pressures on them at their job [...] that also affected children's perception of time with their fathers," Ms Strazdins said.

One in eight kids wished dad didn't work, while 40 per cent of fathers worked nights or weekends and felt they couldn't change their work hours.

Ms Strazdins said studies had already shown long hours were detrimental to health and gender quality.

"This is part of a national debate we need to keep having," she said.


The research showed it wasn't a problem unique to white collar jobs, affecting workers across the board.

Half of the fathers surveyed worked more than 44 hours per week, one fifth worked over 55 hours per week.

"This actually then makes it difficult for many fathers to be the fathers they want to be," Ms Strazdins said.

The study also found 55.9 per cent of dads missed family events, with 20.3 per cent feeling pressured during family time.

Dad Geoff Beckett said he was closer to retirement which allowed him to spend more time with his daughter, Gemelu, 2.

"My work's online so I get a lot of time with her now," Mr Beckett said.

"But where as with [my] other kids, I never really knew them."

Mr Beckett's work as a contractor earlier in his life meant he was working long hours or on weekends, preventing him from spending more time with his other children as they grew up.

"When you're contracting, you've got to take what you can," Mr Beckett said.

Ms Strazdins said Australian work place cultures around work expectations for men needed to change.