Despite being well-educated and employed, more than half of single mothers recently surveyed by the Council of Single Mothers and their Children (CSMC) are living below the poverty line.
In the second CSMC National Survey and “Navigating Turbulence” Report, 1168 single mums from around Australia answered questions on housing, income levels, employment status, education, family violence, family law, disability and the impact of Covid.
While 78 per cent of survey respondents were in paid employment, 61 per cent (with 1,143 children) supported a family on less than $60,000 a year (median Australian income is $65,000 a year). The data from the survey, the largest of its kind in Australia, reveals that contrary to the popular stereotype, employment amongst single mothers is on par with partnered parents.
“Sadly for single mothers, a job and higher education is no protection against financial insecurity,” says Council of Single Mothers and their Children CEO Jenny Davidson.
According to the report, 67 per cent of single mothers surveyed experienced family violence, increasing to 78 per cent in families with a mother living with a disability.
“Family violence in all its forms is a significant issue for single mothers,” Ms Davidson says. “Our society needs to address this outrage. Perpetrators go on with their lives while women are left struggling to protect their children and provide them with essentials like a roof over their heads. Our survey reveals family violence impacts future employment, health and financial security and needs to be taken into account by policymakers.”
Safe and affordable housing was the main concern for survey respondents, with nearly half (49%) not feeling confident about their long-term housing. Single mothers from all income brackets were represented in all housing types – a fifth reporting they live in insecure housing, a third living in private rental and a small number earning over $100,000 living in tents or caravan parks, unable to secure rentals.
Respondents experienced homelessness and marginal housing at almost four times the national average (1.9 per cent compared with 0.5 per cent), which applied to the broader population would equate to 12,500 mothers with 22,500 children homeless.
Women reported: applying for more than 100 rental properties and being rejected from all of them; having to sleep in their car; escaping violence and having to pay more for their transitional housing than they would in equivalent private rental; being assaulted at a motel where they were housed temporarily; waiting more than four years for priority housing and having to give up their children to a family member because of homelessness.
“Discrimination in relation to housing is most prevalent in the rental market,” Ms Davidson says. “Some algorithms used by real estate agents instantly reject single mothers; and in most cases, preference is given to two-income families.”
Council for Single Mothers and their Children (CSMC) supports single-mother families with resources and advice, and advocates on their behalf.
“We are struggling to provide viable solutions to these families,” she says.
“We need financial investment in affordable, appropriate and secure rental housing for single mother families, mortgage assistance akin to rental assistance, extension of the Family Home Guarantee Scheme and financial institutions to provide mortgages to women with financial capacity to service them, including those over 50 years of age.”
Census data reveals there are 864,000 single-mother families in Australia, heading 12.7% of families with dependent children and single mothers work more hours a week than other Australian women. However, they are vulnerable because of casualisation of the workforce, and many lost their jobs during Covid.
“It’s time to end the stigma and recognise how courageous and resilient single mothers are and how hard they work,” says Ms Davidson. “Many single mums are employed, and they are studying. Most have their children 12 days a fortnight - they are full-time primary carers while also holding down a job. But employment is no guarantee of a liveable income.”
The Navigating Turbulence Report includes many recommendations to address the myriad challenges facing single mothers and informative comments from single mothers.
CSMC Support Line 1300 552 511 03 9654 0622
Nationally 1168 single mothers completed the survey, the largest of its kind in Australia:
- 78 per cent of survey respondents were in paid employment,
- 84% have completed year 12, and have a University degree or TAFE qualification.
Yet most are still struggling financially:
- 61 per cent (with 1,143 children) supported a family on less than $60,000 a year and 37% are struggling on less than $40,000 a year (raising children below the poverty line)
- 67% experienced family violence, a major driver of separation
About Council of Single Mothers and their Children (CSMC)
Council of Single Mothers and their Children is a non-profit organisation founded in 1969 by single mothers to secure a better life for women parenting alone and their children. For over 50 years, CSMC has been striving for social and economic inclusion for all single mother and their children, across their lives. We provide specialist support to around 4600 families per year and advocate on poverty, social security, child support, family law and housing, informed by our single mother members.
About “Navigating turbulence: COVID and beyond for Australian single mothers”
The report was undertaken by the Council of Single Mothers and their Children during 2022. 1,168 respondents reflect on their own and their children's experiences of COVID-19 and provide insights into their economic wellbeing, paid and unpaid work, housing, and interactions with the family law system. Following the inaugural survey in 2018, this report is the largest source of contemporary insights into single mother families in Australia.
Carolin Wenzel 0417 668 957
Linda Apps 0433 999017
CEO Jenny Davidson
E: firstname.lastname@example.org 0407 697 976