Issue 61

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Family Matters No. 61, 2002

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Work and family life - our workplaces, families and futures

This edition of Family Matters highlights a diverse body of research which takes various approaches to understanding the issues of work and family life. 

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Coordinator of research articles: Matthew Gray

Publications Committee: Matthew Gray,Meredith Michie, Catherine Rosenbrock, Ann Sanson, David Stanton, Ruth Weston and Sarah Wise

Editor: Meredith Michie

Publication details

Family Matters No. 61
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, April 2002, 92 pp.
1030-2646 (print) 1832-8318 (online)

Copyright information


Work and family life: Our workplaces, families and futures

Matthew Gray and David Stanton

This edition of Family Matters highlights a diverse body of research which takes various approaches to understanding the issues of work and family life. This introductory article provides an overview of the articles addressing these issues, and a review of some of the demographic, economic and social trends which together are leading to the interest in work and family. This is followed by a brief discussion of the range of government policies which could be used to increase the ability of people to successfully balance their family and work responsibilities.

Family law update

John Dewar

The focus of this family law update is the report of the Family Law Pathways Advisory Group, titled 'Out of the maze: pathways to the future for families experiencing separation'. The author summarises what the report has to say about problems with, and perceptions of, the current system; key functions of an integrated system; the concept of the pathway, which links identified need with appropriate routes to solutions in the light of those needs; and managing the new system. He highlights that many of the report's recommendations entail the commitment by government of significant resources.

Family friendly workplaces: A tale of two sectors

Jenny Earle

This article briefly outlines the federal industrial relations framework and then goes on to look in particular at recent developments in two very different sectors - the retail industry and the federal public service. The article reports on encouraging developments in these sectors which indicate that business is increasingly understanding that it depends for its success on recognising and accommodating the diverse needs of the people who make up the workforce. This is important if we are to address the problem of the current uneven spread of family-friendly workplaces across the economy. The paper also points out that in many workplaces family friendly work provisions are not formalised through the workplace relations system, and that while such informal agreements, company policy or management practices may suit an organisation in the short term, there are good reasons to include family friendly practice in formal agreements.

Implications of men's extended work hours for their personal and marital happiness

Ruth Weston, Lixia Qu and Grace Soriano

The standard working week is standard no longer. For men, the change has been towards an increase in work hours. This is occurring in an era marked by wives increasingly sharing the income earning load, a consequent need for husbands to take on more of the home making load, and a need for workplaces to allow this to happen. Given such a climate of conflicting demands, are those extra hours men put into their job worth it in terms of personal and marital happiness? This article first outlines trends in paid work hours over the 20th century, apparent reasons underlying recent trends, and previous research into some of the personal repurcussions of long work hours. On the basis of this background information, predictions of the links between work hours and these other factors are then specified and later assessed on the basis of data collected through a survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies in 1996, the Australian Life Course Study. The analysis focuses on the direct and indirect impact of men's extended work hours on relationship well being and life satisfaction, when the effects of some other variables likely to affect personal and marital well being were controlled.

Fathers' views on family life and paid work

Kelly Hand and Virginia Lewis

Do working fathers think they have enough time to spend with their children? In 2001, the Australian Institute of Family Studies conducted research commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services which comprised interviews with 47 Melbourne families about work and family life. As part of this Family and Work: The Family's Perspective project, the Talking to Fathers study explores the responses of 27 fathers from a variety of family types, occupations and income levels. This article focuses on fathers' responses about whether they felt that they spent enough time with their children, the way they like to spend time with their children, and how they seek to balance work and family responsibilities.

Access to family-friendly work practices: Differences within and between Australian workplaces

Matthew Gray and Jacqueline Tudball

This article summarises the results of recent research that looks at access to family friendly work practices among employees working within the same workplace. The analysis is based on the Australian Workplace Industrial Relations Survey 1995, which combines information from employers and employees, thus allowing a powerful analysis of the incentives and constraints employers face when deciding which work practices to make available to which employees. The analysis reported here focuses particularly upon four family friendly work arrangements: control over start and finish times; access to a telephone for family reasons; availability of permanent part time employment; and availability of various ways in which time is taken off work for the care of a sick family member. The analysis reveals that the variation in access to a range of work practices is greater among employees working in the same workplace than the variation between workplaces. The findings raise important questions about the extent to which family friendly work practices are being provided to the employees who need them the most.

Identifying corporate pathfinders: History of the ACCI National Work and Family Awards

Liz Anderson

This article reflects on the history and purpose of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry National Work and Family Awards, which were initiated ten years ago as a means of stimulating greater management interest in the benefits of helping employees combine their working and home lives, and also to give public recognition to significant achievement by business in the development and implementation of work and family policies and practices. Examples are provided of innovative approaches to work and family which have been adopted by best practice employers.

Work rich, family poor?: Non-standard working hours and family life

Christine Millward

Having the time and energy to successfully combine work and family life can be a particular challenge for parents working long or non-standard hours. The author presents findings from a British study, Atypical Work Patterns and Family Life, which examined the consequences for family life when parents worked early mornings, evenings, weekends or shifts. Issues common to both British and Australian policy makers and working parents are discussed.

Parents' expectations, values and choice of child care: Connections to culture

Sarah Wise

Child care settings contain people, roles, rules and relations that a child must negotiate in addition to those in the family system. Thus, the extent to which parents choose child care that complements the environment of the home is likely to influence children's adjustment in child care. The Australian Institute of Family Studies is currently conducting a study called Child Care in Cultural Context which is looking at the effects on children of differences between home and child care. Data are being collected from multiple sources on the development of children aged one to three years from Somali, Vietnamese and Anglo-Australian backgrounds attending either family day care or centre care. This article reports early findings from the study about what parents from different cultural backgrounds expect of child care, what they value in child care services, and how this may be influencing their child care decisions.

Understanding community strengths

Wendy Stone and Jody Hughes

Can existing theories provide an overall framework for achieving and identifying strong communities? This article identifies the concepts of social cohesion and social exclusion as providing two theoretical frameworks whose relevance to Australian policy deserves greater exploration.

Living standards of older people and policy implications for their grandchildren

Peter Travers

This article describes a large research project where some of the policy implications flow fairly readily, but where others are proving to be far more contested. The research project is an elaborate study of the living standards of older New Zealanders. The study shows that with few exceptions, older New Zealanders appear to be living well, and that they themselves agree with this conclusion. But, the author questions, if older people are faring rather well, what does that tell us about policy directed towards younger people? He discusses the study, its findings, and why it is easy to misinterpret the policy implications particularly in relation to generational equity.