New mothers staying connected to the workforce

Content type
Media release

May 2023

A new report by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) has found that women are increasingly remaining employed when they take time off to have a baby, demonstrating the uptake of parental leave in recent years.

32% of mothers with babies aged under one year were employed but away from work in 2021, compared to just 5% in 1991 – a six-fold increase in 30 years – entirely explaining the increase in employment for new mothers over this period. 

There was virtually no change in the proportion employed and working some hours, remaining at 25% of these new mothers.

The study also found an increasing trend for both parents of young children to be working; in 2022, both parents were employed in 71% of couple families with children under 15 years. This compares to 56% in 2000, and 40% in 1979.

Lead researcher, Dr Jennifer Baxter from AIFS, said the employment trends are the result of key societal changes in recent decades impacting young families.

“This trend reflects an increased desire for mothers to stay connected to their work when they have a baby. This is supported by the availability of parental leave, with some mothers having access to paid leave through work provisions or through the Australian Government’s Paid Parental Leave,” Dr Baxter said.

“We know, too, that families are under increasing financial stress, through larger mortgages, which might also provide impetus for women to remain employed when taking time off to care for a baby.” 

Dr Baxter said new mothers staying connected to their employer has many benefits for them as individuals as well as for their employers.

“New mothers staying employed enables valuable knowledge and skills to remain within organisations – and provides certainty and security for new mothers when a lot of change is happening in their lives,” Dr Baxter said. 

Data used for the research was sourced from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) including the 2021 Census.

See the full report: Employment patterns and trends for families with children

AIFS conducts original research to increase understanding of Australian families and the issues that affect them.

Media contact     
Kate O'Connor      
Phone: 0499 860 257  
Email: kate.o'[email protected]