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Conclusions

Gains in the labour force participation of women aged 25–49 years over the last 20 years have been largely driven by the increased participation of mothers in the labour market. Gains have been particularly significant for sole mothers, whose labour force participation and employment rates have increased at a greater pace than for partnered mothers. However, sole mothers are still behind partnered mothers, and have a higher proportion of unemployment in their working-age population.

The level of these gains varies by the ethnicity of mothers. Māori and Pacific mothers were more likely to be sole parents than European and Asian mothers, and more likely to be unemployed.

For employed women, partnered mothers had similar statuses in employment, occupation, and industry to women with no dependent children. Sole mothers were more likely to be temporary workers, less likely to be professionals, and more likely to work in health care and social assistance; retail trade, accommodation, and food services.

Having a bachelor's degree or higher mattered in terms of higher levels of employment, regardless of parent and partner statuses. However, sole mothers were less likely to have this level of qualification and more likely to have no qualifications.

The quality of working life of partnered mothers was similar to women with no dependants across a wide range of metrics including job satisfaction, work-life balance satisfaction, and pain from work. For all of these, the outcomes of sole mothers were poorer.

For other metrics – mostly concerning hours worked – partnered mothers were similar to sole mothers. These metrics included number of usual hours worked, working full time / part time, stress from work, and working non-standard hours. Mothers who worked non-standard hours disproportionately experienced negative effects to their home and family life.

It is important to note that many working outcomes depended on partner status whether or not women had children – although this wasn't a focus in this paper.

This paper has explored the potential for using HLFS and SoWL data to research the labour market outcomes of mothers. Building off the results of these analyses, further research in this area could make use of census data and income data from the New Zealand Income Survey; look into young mothers aged 15–24 who were excluded from this paper; and test more models for mothers' work outcomes, among many other possibilities.

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