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Sole Mothers in Australia: Supporting Mothers to Seek Work


  • Marilyn McHugh
  • Jane Millar


The rapid increase in the numbers of sole parents in Australia - and their high risk of poverty - has meant that these families have become a focus of increasing concern. This paper explores the issue of sole motherhood and employment, with a particular emphasis on examining the relationship between social security policies and current discourses on the role of women in Australian society, including the perspectives of sole mothers themselves. The paper is part of an edited collection (Duncan and Edwards, forthcoming), covering nine countries ranging from Ireland (where the vast majority of sole mothers are not employed and where the expectation of policy is that such women should stay and home to care for their children) to Sweden (where almost all sole mothers are in employment and where public policy is explicitly designed to support them) and the USA (where most sole mothers are employed despite low levels of public provision for working mothers). Other countries in the collection include the UK, Japan, Germany and France. As other comparative work has shown, variations in sole mothers’ employment rates across countries cannot be readily explained (Bradshaw et al., 1996). The distinctive approach adopted in this book is that the national case studies each explore the processes by which sole mothers combine paid work and mothering. The paper brings together an analysis of the dominant political and popular discourses about motherhood; of the nature of the state welfare regime; of the constraints and opportunities of local labour markets; and of the formal provision and support offered by social security, child support and child care policies. This provides a context for understanding how different groups of sole mothers negotiate their social identity as mothers and as workers.

Suggested Citation

  • Marilyn McHugh & Jane Millar, 1996. "Sole Mothers in Australia: Supporting Mothers to Seek Work," Discussion Papers 0071, University of New South Wales, Social Policy Research Centre.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:sprcdp:0071

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    Cited by:

    1. Peter Dawkins & Paul Gregg & Rosanna Scutella, 2002. "The Growth of Jobless Households in Australia," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 35(2), pages 133-154.

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