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Record number of stay-at-home dads in Australia

Australia has a record number of stay-at-home dads, with more fathers caring for children after quitting the workforce or losing their job.

But an expert doesn't see any great rise in the future with more fathers reducing, rather than relinquishing, their employment.

About 80,000 stay-at-home fathers were in Australia in 2016, an Australian Institute of Family Studies report has found.

Representing about 4.6 per cent of all two-parent families, the number is 11,500 higher than the 2011 figures.

AIFS says households with stay-at-home dads tend to have fewer children at home than other family types and earn less than families with stay-at-home mothers.

The dads are older and more likely than other fathers to have a disability or be enrolled in education.

Identity could be an issue for stay-at-home fathers too.

The AIFS report speculates that many who fit the narrow stay-at-home father definition - those who work zero hours and who have a female spouse in employment - may rather identify as being unemployed or students.

Others, like Newcastle father Andrew Brownrigg, are surprised to learn their few hours of work at home means they're lumped in the broadly defined dual working families that describes three in five families in Australia.

"How many mothers are there these days who stay at home 24/7 and don't earn a bit of money?" the 47-year-old father of two said.

Like Mr Brownrigg, Adelaide dad Ryan Peck considered his wife's better work opportunities in his decision to become the primary carer for his two preschool-aged kids.

He works a few days a week but also proudly describes himself as a stay-at-home dad.

"I think it's become more commonplace for men to have this (primary-caring) role now - being more hands-on in parenthood isn't even thought of negatively," he says.

AIFS senior research fellow Jennifer Baxter says fathers, like an increasing number of mothers, are reducing their time at work rather than giving it up completely.

She isn't convinced the latest increase in stay-at-home fathers is part of a longer-term trend.

"I can't think why we would see quite a big increase in stay-at-home dads if we aren't expecting the same of mums," Dr Baxter said.

"My reading of the numbers is that we're not likely to see this number go up in any great way in the future."

Sydney father Gordon Dracup left the workforce eight years ago to ensure someone was around when his youngest was in preschool.

While he says the stay-at-home dad role offers him to be involved in his community and to do some online university courses, he's often running around like a headless chicken ferrying kids to various activities.

"I don't know how people manage it unless they have really good parental support and really good friends that can help them out," he said.

AAP

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