Parents’ Jobs in Australia: Work Hours Polarisation and the Consequences for Job Quality and Gender Equality

Sara Charlesworth, Lyndall Strazdins, Lean O'BRIEN, Sharryn Sims

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper documents the gendered polarisation of work hours between mothers and fathers in Australia. Drawing on a large Australian sample of employee parents, we investigate the links between job quality and employment contract. Our focus is on mothers and fathers of young children – families facing high care demands – and investigate whether shorter and longer hour jobs carry the same contract and quality costs. Using a truncated measure of job quality, we find for both mothers and fathers that moderate full time hour jobs were the jobs with optimal quality and stable employment contracts. Poor job quality and casual contracts were common in very short hour jobs, usually worked by mothers. At the other end of the work hour spectrum, the very long hour jobs predominantly worked by fathers also showed a dip in job quality. Our study suggests that the gendered polarisation of hours in the Australian labour market, supported by a one-and-a-half earner family strategy, undermines parents’, particularly mothers’, access to good quality jobs. It also reinforces gender inequality by making it harder for fathers to fully engage in parenting and mothers to fully participate in employment and earn a decent income, with consequent hardship in later life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-57
Number of pages23
JournalAustralian Journal of Labour Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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