City's working women divide

Job hunt … Sonia Smith and daughter Hannah, 8.
Job hunt … Sonia Smith and daughter Hannah, 8.

The latest census has exposed stark differences in the number of women working, with where you live, cultural background and education all determining job prospects.

The percentage of women who work in the south-west and mid-west of the city is much lower than in other parts of Sydney.

In a cluster of neighbourhoods around Fairfield, 50.1 per cent of females over the age of 15 have a job or are looking for one, which is more than 9 percentage points below the Greater Sydney average and almost 20 percentage points lower than some inner-city areas.

Governments have sought to encourage women to work in a bid to lift productivity and offset the effects of an ageing population.

But the census highlights how many women in the south-west of Sydney still face considerable obstacles.

Phillip O'Neill, from the urban research centre at the University of Western Sydney, said one factor was lower levels of educational attainment in the city's south-west.

"People with lower levels of education are typically less likely to be in the paid workforce," he said.

Also, many women in the south-west of Sydney are from non-English speaking backgrounds which "diminishes the likelihood" of them participating in the workforce.

"If you're not competitive in the labour market because you are a migrant woman without a formal qualification you are not going to go looking," Professor O'Neill said.

Professor O'Neill said patterns of migration also play a role. A significant proportion of women in south-western Sydney are from ethnic groups where mothers are not encouraged to work.

Higher rates of single-parent households may also diminish female labour force participation.

Sonia Smith, a 45-year-old single mother from Miller in Sydney's south-west who is on the Newstart allowance, has been looking for work for two years but found opportunities are limited.

''There isn't any jobs for single mothers out here. It's all casual work,'' she said.

''I can't support my family and organise childcare around sporadic work. I need stability so I can be there for my daughter.''

This story City's working women divide first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.