Parenthood and Career Mobility: Implications of Transitions to Part-Time Work Among Australian Mothers

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: 415
Oral Presentation
Gillian WHITEHOUSE , Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Bill MARTIN , The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Belinda HEWITT , Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
One of the main strategies adopted by Australian mothers to minimise work-life interference is to work part-time hours. The prevalence of this working pattern in Australia underlines contradictions between gender equality and care and raises questions about the contrasting possibilities for career retention and advancement associated with the transition to part-time work, particularly in the context of austerity pressures. In this study we examine the employment patterns of Australian mothers and assess the career implications of transitions made on return to work. Our analysis draws on data from the first two waves of a longitudinal survey of Australian mothers who had given birth to a child in 2010 (Wave 1, n=4,201;Wave 2, n=3,487).

 As a basis for our analysis we map employment trajectories among these women, illustrating the prevalence of transitions from full-time to part-time work: 77% of those who had returned to work in Wave 2 of the survey were working part-time, and among those who had been working full-time prior to the birth of their child, 75% returned part-time. We use multivariate models to examine the impact of these and other transitions on indicators of career mobility, utilising changes in hourly earnings and occupational mobility as objective measures and responses to a question on perceptions of career prospects as a subjective measure.

 Our analysis identifies some risks associated with the transition to part-time: for example, around 40% of mothers making this transition perceived that their career opportunities had declined compared with only around 20% of those who maintained their pre-birth working-time status. Our models explore the complex relationships between these and other potential influences on career mobility, including the type and duration of parental leave taken. The analysis establishes a baseline from which longer-term effects may be examined and the contradictions of the Australian context explored.