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The decline of the 'traditional' family: work-life benefits as a means of promoting a diverse workforce in the construction industry of Australia


  • Helen Lingard
  • Valerie Francis


The 'traditional' managerial career model was based upon a clear division of labour. Typically, women stayed at home to raise children and manage household work while men acted as primary breadwinners. In this arrangement, relocation, long and inflexible hours of work and frequent travel were not only possible but were a prerequisite for advancement. However, since the 1950s, dramatic changes to family structures and workforce composition have occurred. In the twenty-first century the majority of women, including those who may be considered in the child-bearing and early child-rearing age group, are in paid employment. There has also been an increase in the number of lone parents in the workforce. There is evidence of a corresponding change in employees' expectations, with both men and women placing greater value on both work and family involvement. Given these changes, it can no longer be assumed that employees are 'free' to devote all their energy to their work. Nor can it be assumed that there is a clear separation between employees' work and personal lives. The construction industry has a culture of long hours and weekend work, and construction employees struggle to achieve a balance between their work and personal lives. This paper suggests that, in order to attract and retain a talented workforce, construction organizations will increasingly have to cater for the diverse needs of employees with regard to work-life balance. Furthermore, it is likely that employees' needs will vary according to their gender, age and stage of family development. A 'one size fits all' approach to managing work-life balance is unlikely to suffice. This paper presents the results of an empirical investigation of project-based professional and managerial employees' preferences for work-life balance initiatives in Australian private and public sector construction organizations. Preferences were found to differ significantly by employee family structure and age. The small number of female respondents did not warrant statistical comparisons by gender. However, the profile of female respondents suggests that women with dependent children are seriously under-represented in project-based positions within the participating organizations. Finally, the implications for managing a diverse workforce are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Helen Lingard & Valerie Francis, 2005. "The decline of the 'traditional' family: work-life benefits as a means of promoting a diverse workforce in the construction industry of Australia," Construction Management and Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 23(10), pages 1045-1057.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:conmgt:v:23:y:2005:i:10:p:1045-1057
    DOI: 10.1080/01446190500394308

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Matthew Gray & Jacqueline Tudball, 2004. "Family-friendly work practices: differences within and between workplaces," Labor and Demography 0405003, EconWPA.
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