Child care participation and maternal employment trends in Australia
There has been significant growth in maternal employment over recent decades. Since then, families have found different ways of managing their child care responsibilities, such as through the use of formal child care, after school care, informal care by grandparents, and by working shorter or flexible hours.
This paper explores trends in child care in Australia from 1984 to 2011, for children aged under 12 years old with employed mothers. It provides insights on the relationship between maternal employment and child care, and how the roles of different care providers have changed.
In the early 1980s about four in 10 mothers were employed, compared to more than 6 in 10 in 2011, meaning families have increasingly had to find ways of caring for children around their work responsibilities.
Over this period there has been considerable growth in the availability of formal child care such as long day care and outside school hours care.
Using Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, these analyses show that there has been much more use of formal child care for children of employed mothers over this time.
Maternal employment is not always associated with extensive use of formal child care, with much of the child care for maternal employment provided by family members.
Informal care is reported for many children with employed mothers. For children with employed mothers, the percentages in informal care were:
- Much of the informal care is provided by grandparents.
- A number of families manage without non-parental child care when mothers are employed.
Authors and Acknowledgements
Dr Jennifer Baxter is at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
This publication extends analyses initially undertaken as part of the author's doctoral thesis in the Demography and Sociology program at the Australian National University (ANU). I am grateful to Dr Rebecca Kippen and Professor Peter McDonald for their supervision and support while undertaking this work. I also appreciate the valuable feedback on earlier versions of this report received from two reviewers (Professor Deborah Brennan and Dr Bruce Caldwell), and from colleagues at the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).
This paper uses unit record data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Child Care Surveys, more recently named the Childhood Education and Care Surveys.
The findings and views reported in this paper are those of the author and should not be attributed to AIFS, the ANU or the ABS.
Baxter, J. A. (2013). Child care participation and maternal employment trends in Australia (Research Report No. 26). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.
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