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Parents jobs in Australia: work hours polarisation and the consequences of job quality and gender equality


  • Sara Charlesworth

    () (University of South Australia)

  • Lyndall Strazdins

    (Australian National University)


This paper documents the gendered polarisation of work hours between mothers and fathers in Australia. Drawing on a large Australian sample of employee parents, we investigate the links between job quality and employment contract. Our focus is on mothers and fathers of young children – families facing high care demands – and investigate whether shorter and longer hour jobs carry the same contract and quality costs. Using a truncated measure of job quality, we find for both mothers and fathers that moderate full time hour jobs were the jobs with optimal quality and stable employment contracts. Poor job quality and casual contracts were common in very short hour jobs, usually worked by mothers. At the other end of the work hour spectrum, the very long hour jobs predominantly worked by fathers also showed a dip in job quality. Our study suggests that the gendered polarisation of hours in the Australian labour market, supported by a one-and-a-half earner family strategy, undermines parents’, particularly mothers’, access to good quality jobs. It also reinforces gender inequality by making it harder for fathers to fully engage in parenting and mothers to fully participate in employment and earn a decent income, with consequent hardship in later life.

Suggested Citation

  • Sara Charlesworth & Lyndall Strazdins, 2011. "Parents jobs in Australia: work hours polarisation and the consequences of job quality and gender equality," Australian Journal of Labour Economics (AJLE), Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School, vol. 14(1), pages 35-57.
  • Handle: RePEc:ozl:journl:v:14:y:2011:i:1:p:35-57

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    Cited by:

    1. Cooklin, Amanda R. & Giallo, Rebecca & Strazdins, Lyndall & Martin, Angela & Leach, Liana S. & Nicholson, Jan M., 2015. "What matters for working fathers? Job characteristics, work-family conflict and enrichment, and fathers' postpartum mental health in an Australian cohort," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 214-222.
    2. Cooklin, A.R. & Dinh, H. & Strazdins, L. & Westrupp, E. & Leach, L.S. & Nicholson, J.M., 2016. "Change and stability in work–family conflict and mothers' and fathers' mental health: Longitudinal evidence from an Australian cohort," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 24-34.
    3. Markus Brueckner, 2016. "Mortality and urbanization: An African tragedy," CAMA Working Papers 2016-66, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    4. Dinh, Huong & Cooklin, Amanda R. & Leach, Liana S. & Westrupp, Elizabeth M. & Nicholson, Jan M. & Strazdins, Lyndall, 2017. "Parents' transitions into and out of work-family conflict and children's mental health: Longitudinal influence via family functioning," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 194(C), pages 42-50.
    5. Julie P. Smith & Sara Javanparast & Ellen McIntyre & Lyn Craig & Kate Mortensen & Colleen Koh, 2013. "Discrimination against breastfeeding mothers in childcare," Australian Journal of Labour Economics (AJLE), Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School, vol. 16(1), pages 65-90.
    6. Kennedy, Tom & Rae, Maria & Sheridan, Alison & Valadkhani, Abbas, 2017. "Reducing gender wage inequality increases economic prosperity for all: Insights from Australia," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 14-24.
    7. Dinh, Huong & Strazdins, Lyndall & Welsh, Jennifer, 2017. "Hour-glass ceilings: Work-hour thresholds, gendered health inequities," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 42-51.
    8. Margaret Nowak & Marita Naude & Gail Thomas, 2012. "Sustaining Career through Maternity Leave," Australian Journal of Labour Economics (AJLE), Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School, vol. 15(3), pages 201-216.
    9. Strazdins, Lyndall & OBrien, Léan V. & Lucas, Nina & Rodgers, Bryan, 2013. "Combining work and family: Rewards or risks for children's mental health?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 99-107.

    More about this item


    Particular Labour Markets Time Allocation Labour Standards;

    JEL classification:

    • J49 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Other
    • J29 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Other
    • J81 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards - - - Working Conditions


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