NCLS Research


It has been suggested that women, children and those who are retired are three groups attracted to church life because it offers them a way, beyond the world of paid work, of finding fulfilment and having their social needs met. In a world where there are increasing opportunities for social interaction and fulfilment outside the churches, are homemakers still attracted to church life?

Personal characteristics

  • According to the Australian Community Survey (ACS), some 10% of Australian adults describe themselves as full-time homemakers.
  • Despite the changes to gender roles that have taken place in society, nearly all full-time homemakers are female (96%). Full-time homemakers are most likely to be aged 30–39 years (32%), which are the primary years for raising young children. Most homemakers are married (72%), with a further 6% living in de facto relationships.
  • The typical image of a homemaker is of a full-time mum with a husband and with dependent children under the age of 18. However, in the ACS data only 46% of full-time homemakers fitted this description.
  • Most homemakers did not proceed beyond secondary school (75%), although some have obtained university degrees (7%).

Work and leisure

  • Few work outside the home. By definition, few full-time homemakers are involved in paid work outside the home, with 88% saying they do no paid work each week and a further 9% working between 1 and 20 hours per week in paid employment. Consequently, only 13% of homemakers describe the workplace as an important place for them to meet with friends, compared with 34% nationally.
  • They describe themselves as less busy than other people. Homemakers perceive themselves to be a little less busy than the rest of the population. On a scale ranging from 1 (not at all busy) to 7 (too busy to cope), most homemakers (53%) scored 5 or higher, compared with a national average of 62%.
  • They are involved in school and children’s activities. The perception that homemakers are an important human resource for voluntary organisations is unsupported by the ACS data. The ACS indicates that homemakers generally have no greater level of involvement than others in volunteer work outside the home. Homemakers do, however, have higher levels of involvement in school and other educational groups than the population generally (32% compared with 17%). They are also more likely to be involved in activities for children and youth than the population generally (17% compared with 10%).
  • Home-centred activities are most important. The leisure activities of homemakers are more likely to be centred on the home. Homemakers value keeping in contact with friends by phone, with 80% describing this as important or very important, compared with 71% of the population. Homemakers are also more likely than others to view their home, or the homes of neighbours and friends, as important places for meeting with their friends (82% compared with 78% of the population). Shopping centres are also important for this purpose (31% compared with 18% of the population). By contrast, homemakers have little involvement in sporting or outdoor activities. They are less likely than other adults to go to the hotel or dine out.

Beliefs and church attendance

  • They have meaning and purpose. Most homemakers say that their life has a sense of meaning or purpose (84%).
  • Religion is more important to them. Homemakers are more likely than others to hold to a range of traditional Christian beliefs (35% compared with 30% of the population) and are even more likely to view the Christian faith as being important for daily living (43% compared with 29% of the population). However, homemakers are only a little more likely than others to attend church frequently (24% compared with 20% of the population).
  • Values they affirm. Homemakers are less likely than others to see the accumulation of wealth as an important value for living (15% compared with 21% of the population). Nor do they see an exciting life as particularly important (34% compared with 49% of the population).

Ministry needs and opportunities

  • Home life is central. The data highlights that for many homemakers their world revolves mainly around their home life. They see their housework, their shopping and their involvement in activities for their children as significant and demanding roles. Any outreach by churches to this group needs to be sensitive to this reality and should not presume upon their time or devalue their role as homemaker. Supporting the homemaker role. Outreach activities to this group should be aimed at supporting them in their role as homemaker. Appropriate activities might include playgroups and short parenting courses. Homemakers might then see the church as supporting them rather than seeing their church involvement as just another activity added to an already busy schedule. It may be best to have activities for homemakers in small groups in the home rather than in less personal church settings.
Source: Profiling Australians (2003)

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