Work & Family Juggling Finds a Balance - Report
24 July 2012 at 11:42 am
Many Australian families are juggling their working lives without using formal child-care services, according to new research by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
Australian Institute of Family Studies Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jennifer Baxter said the study showed that two out of three families with primary school aged children and employed mothers were juggling work and family commitments in a way that means they didn't need to outsource their childcare arrangements.
"Many Australian families are finding ways to manage the "work and family juggle" so that they don't lose out on time with their children, striking a balance so that they don't need to use formal child-care programs at all," she said.
"There are many families with employed mothers who manage without formal childcare at all. This is even the case for families with mothers who work full-time.
"In these families, almost half of children aged six to seven years or eight to nine years are cared for only by parents after school. Slightly more 10-11 year olds (60 per cent) are cared for only by parents in these families with full-time employed mothers.
"Part of the explanation for the lack of formal childcare will be that fathers are taking on some of the responsibilities.
"The primary years are interesting as they span those ages from when children are still very dependent on their parents, to when they are beginning to look for independence and responsibility."
Dr Baxter said that for mothers, child-care issues are very closely related to decisions about when they go back to work and what they want to do, with many choosing self-employment or casual work when their children are young.
"We know that many Australian mothers prefer to combine parenting and paid work by working part time, at least while their children are still in school," she said.
Dr Baxter said that among mothers with a child aged six to 11, 70 per cent are employed, with 10 per cent working up to 15 hours a week, 20 per cent working up to 24 hours, 15 per cent working up to 34 hours and 25 per cent working 35 hours or more.
"Very few mothers of primary school aged children are not working because of the non-availability of childcare. Instead, 55 per cent of mothers who are not employed say this is because they prefer to look after their children and are too busy with their family," she said.
"Others report that they are not working because they can't find a job with enough flexibility.
"It is a complex story and the statistics don't fully explain how families manage to work and care for children and what kind of constraints and preferences influence individual family decisions.
“Our paper also uses data from a number of qualitative studies conducted by AIFS over the past 10 years to further explore these preferences and constraints."
The research is drawn from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children that is following the development of 10,000 children and families from all parts of Australia, as well as three qualitative studies conducted by the Institute in recent years, and will be presented at the 12th Australian Institute of Family Studies' conference Family Transitions and Trajectories being held at the Melbourne Convention Centre from July 25-27.