Many Australian families are managing their working lives so they don’t miss out on time with their children and without using formal child-care services, according to new research released today by the Australian Institute of Family Studies.
Australian Institute of Family Studies Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jennifer Baxter said the study showed that two out of three families with primary school aged children and employed mothers were juggling work and family commitments in a way that means they didn’t need to out-source their childcare arrangements.
“Many Australian families are finding ways to manage the “work and family juggle” so that they don’t lose out on time with their children, striking a balance so that they don’t need to use formal child-care programs at all,” she said.
“There are many families with employed mothers who manage without formal childcare at all. This is even the case for families with mothers who work full-time.
“In these families, almost half of children aged 6-7 years or 8-9 years are cared for only by parents after school. Slightly more 10-11 year olds (60 percent) are cared for only by parents in these families with full-time employed mothers.
“Part of the explanation for the lack of formal childcare will be that fathers are taking on some of the responsibilities.
“The primary years are interesting as they span those ages from when children are still very dependent on their parents, to when they are beginning to look for independence and responsibility.”
Dr Baxter said that for mothers, child-care issues are very closely related to decisions about when they go back to work and what they want to do, with many choosing self-employment or casual work when their children are young.
“We know that many Australian mothers prefer to combine parenting and paid work by working part time, at least while their children are still in school,” she said.
Dr Baxter said that among mothers with a child aged 6-11, 70 percent are employed, with 10 percent working up to 15 hours a week, 20 percent working up to 24 hours, 15 percent working up to 34 hours and 25 percent working 35 hours or more.
“Very few mothers of primary school aged children are not working because of the non-availability of childcare. Instead, 55 percent of mothers who are not employed say this is because they prefer to look after their children and are too busy with their family,” she said.
“Others report that they are not working because they can’t find a job with enough flexibility.
“It is a complex story and the statistics don’t fully explain how families manage to work and care for children and what kind of constraints and preferences influence individual family decisions. Our paper also uses data from a number of qualitative studies conducted by AIFS over the past ten years to further explore these preferences and constraints.”