Parents want flexible child care to manage work-life clashes
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Jennifer Baxter, Kelly Hand
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The Institute’s Director, Anne Hollonds said the report found parents were adjusting their own work patterns and relying on informal care arrangements to manage shift work and jobs outside the standard nine-to-five working week.
The report, Flexible Childcare and Australian Parents’ Work and Care Decision-making draws upon interviews with parents many of them working as police or nurses working variable or non-standard hours.
Ms Hollonds says the report highlights the fact that formal child care has not kept up with the varied hours of the modern labour market.
“In some families, parents adapted their work situation to fit the care they had available. This included changing their work hours to part-time, moving jobs to one that does not involve variable shifts or even taking time out of paid employment,” she said.
“Many parents also opted to meet their care needs informally, either by arranging their work schedules to cover care needs themselves or by calling on the help of extended family such as grandparents. This was especially the case for after-hours care including evenings, overnight and weekends.”
AIFS Senior Researcher, Dr Jennifer Baxter said formal care options were used by many families and were seen as particularly desirable for children approaching school age because of the extra social and learning opportunities they offer.
“However the downside of this type of care was that it usually lacked flexibility, making it especially difficult for parents with variable shifts, but also creating stress for parents working more standard hours in managing their drop-off and pick-up times” she said.
“Despite these difficulties, it is uncertain whether formal care outside of standard hours would be taken up by parents who have found other solutions to their care needs. Family-based and other informal care options were especially valued by those who had access to those arrangements, with many preferring this care for these hours, especially when children were young.”
Dr Baxter said the report highlighted that decision-making about child care was complex and varied.
“Parents make decisions about child care on a whole range of factors depending on work commitments, ages of the children and family structure and the availability of child care options,” she said.
“Some parents prioritise finding high quality care while others prioritise practical considerations such as location and hours.
“Some parents specifically sought centre-based care while others preferred their children to be cared for by relatives.
“Parents held diverse views about the quality of care that they seek and this also changes as the children get older.
“However, the report found that parents in larger families and those living away from extended family or in regional areas, experienced more difficulties with meeting child care needs due to limited options being available to them.”
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