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Abstract and introduction

This paper was presented at the 16th Labour, Employment and Work (LEW16) conference, in Wellington, New Zealand, 27–28 November 2014.

Abstract

Motherhood is a significant factor in how women participate in paid work. Women are likely to restructure their work arrangements or withdraw from the labour market while caring for dependent children (OECD, 2011). However, women's participation in the labour force has increased over time, in part due to more mothers remaining in and re-entering the labour market. The purpose of this paper is to look at the demographic and labour force characteristics of women in the prime parenting age group (those aged 25–49 years), in relation to their parent and partner statuses. Data from the Household Labour Force Survey and the Survey of Working Life are used to create a picture of these different groups of women over time, to identify the factors affecting a mother's ability to participate in the labour market, and to understand how work arrangements and conditions for employed mothers differ from employed non-mothers'.

Introduction

Social, cultural, economic, and policy changes have all affected women's participation in paid work in varying ways over the last few decades. In the last 20 years the labour force participation rate of women has increased from 54.5 percent (June 1994 year) to 63.3 percent (June 2014 year). Over the same period, men's participation rate was largely unchanged, but remained higher than women's. While much of this growth in women's participation was in the older age groups, we have also seen significant gains for those aged 25–49 years – the prime child-bearing and rearing ages.

In the June 2014 year, 62.4 percent of all women aged 25–49 years were a parent to at least one dependent child living in the same household as them, with about one-fifth of these women living as sole parents. This paper takes an initial look at how mothers' and non-mothers' engagement with the labour market has changed over the last 20 years, how the mother and child characteristics affect mothers' levels of employment and unemployment, and the type and quality of work that mothers are employed in and how this compares with women with no children.

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