Australian Mother's Participation in Employment

2013 | Research papers


Baxter, J. (2013). Australian mothers' participation in employment: Analyses of social, demographic and family characteristics using the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey (Research Paper No. 52). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.


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In 2009/10, almost two-thirds of Australian mothers of children aged under 15 years were employed. This employment rate remains below that of many other OECD countries, indicating that there may be potential for increases in maternal employment in Australia.

This paper explores the characteristics of employed and non-employed mothers, to identify the factors that contribute to differing employment levels.

Using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, it examines birth and work history, labour force characteristics, socio-demographic characteristics (e.g., education, number and age of children, and health status), and self-perceptions and values among lone and couple mothers.

In particular, it examines whether non-employment is due to a preference to be at home or due to barriers to employment imposed by personal or family characteristics.

The key messages identified by the study included:

  • the importance of caring for children by the many mothers who remain out of employment;
  • significant factors such as having long-term health conditions and other caring responsibilities, are more common among mothers with lower levels of engagement in paid work;
  • mothers' values about work�family issues are strongly related to employment outcomes; and
  • non-employed mothers with older children, and lone mothers who are not employed seem to have the greatest barriers to employment as indicated by characteristics such as education and health status.


Families, Children and Youth