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How is the working life of mothers?

Data in this section was taken from the 2012 SoWL.

Job satisfaction

Survey respondents were asked to place their overall satisfaction with all aspects of their main jobs on a 5-point Likert scale, where a response of 1 corresponded to 'very satisfied' and 5 corresponded to 'very dissatisfied'. The majority of surveyed women were either satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, whether a sole mother (80.2 percent), partnered mother (87.4 percent), or a woman with no dependants (85.7 percent).

The lower score for sole mothers may be due to their employment status. Sole mothers were more likely to be classified as temporary employees, and temporary employees had lower job satisfaction than other employment relationships (80.3 percent of temporary employees were satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs, versus 86.7 percent of other employment relationships).

Industry and occupational differences in job satisfaction did not appear to explain the lower scores of sole mothers.

Figure 16

Graph, Job satisfaction of women, by parent and partner status, December 2012 quarter.  

The plotted means of women's job satisfaction in figure 16 indicated an interaction between a woman's parent and partner statuses. While partnered women had higher job satisfaction whether or not they had children, mothers' scores appeared to be more affected by whether or not they had a partner than women with no dependants.

However, this interaction was not confirmed with an analysis of variance. A main effect of partner status was confirmed (F(1, 3830) = 5.94, p < .01).

Work-life balance

Women's satisfaction with their work-life balance was measured on the same 5-point scale as described above. The majority of women were either satisfied or very satisfied with their work-life balance, although this proportion was lower than for job satisfaction. Work-life balance satisfaction ranged from 66.4 percent of sole mothers, to 76.3 percent of women with no dependants, to 80.7 percent of partnered mothers.

Figure 17

Graph, Work-life balance satisfaction of mothers, by parent status and age group of youngest dependent child, December 2012 quarter.

When looking at work-life balance satisfaction by age of youngest child, sole mothers were most likely to be satisfied or very satisfied with their work-life balance when their youngest child was less than five years old – 73.4 percent, compared with 65.5 percent of sole mothers of children aged five to 13 years, and 59.9 percent of sole mothers of children aged 14 years and over.

Work-life balance satisfaction of partnered mothers did not appear to be affected by the age of their youngest child, as it stayed around 80 percent.

Full-time / part-time status

Mothers were less likely to be working full time (partnered: 57.5 percent, sole: 61.4 percent) than women without dependent children (83.9 percent). Full-time employment is defined as working 30 hours or more per week. An odds ratio confirmed the odds mothers were working full time were lower than the odds of women without dependent children. There were no differences in the odds for partnered versus non-partnered women.

Table 5
Odds ratio estimates for full-time employee status

By parent status

Parent status

Estimate

95 percent confidence interval

p value

Parent vs non-parent

0.28

0.23

0.33

<0.01

Figure 18

Graph, Proportions of mothers working full time and part time, by parent status and age group of youngest dependent child, December 2012 quarter.

The age of a mother's youngest child affected the likelihood they were working full time. Sole and partnered mothers were both most likely to be working full time when their youngest child was aged 14 or over (72.8 percent and 69.4 percent, respectively). This result was confirmed with an odds ratio analysis. The odds a mother was in full-time work were higher when their youngest child was aged 14 or over.

Table 6
Odds ratio estimates for full-time status
By age of youngest dependent child

Age of youngest dependent child

Estimate

95 percent confidence interval

p value

Youngest child aged 14 and over vs under 14

1.83

1.33

2.52

<0.01

Usual hours

Just as the full-time/part-time breakdowns showed, the distribution of weekly hours worked appears to be affected by parental status. Women with no dependants are more highly concentrated around 40 to 49 hours per week (see figure 19).

Whether a mother has a partner or not appeared to have little effect on the distribution of hours worked.

Figure 19

Graph, Usual hours worked by women, by parent status, December 2012 quarter.

Figure 20

Graph, Usual hours worked by women, By age group of youngest child, December 2012 quarter.

Non-standard hours

A similar proportion of women worked some non-standard hours across parent and partner statuses. Partnered mothers were more likely to work all standard hours than other women.

Non-standard hours are defined as hours worked outside of 7am to 7pm, Monday to Friday.

Figure 21

Graph, Number of times women worked non-standard hours in a four-week period, by parent status, December 2012 quarter.

Difficulties with working non-standard hours

Mothers were more likely to experience difficulties from working non-standard hours. Just over half of sole mothers experienced difficulties, compared with around one-third of partnered mothers and a quarter of women with no dependants (50.1 percent, 32.6 percent, and 26.2 percent, respectively).

When the difficulties were further broken down into type of difficulty, differences emerged between the three groups of women.

Figure 22

Graph, Proportions of women experiencing difficulties due to working non-standard hours, by area of difficulty and parent status, December 2012 quarter.

A similar proportion of women working non-standard hours experienced health or sleep difficulties. These difficulties included responses about problems sleeping and health worries.

Mothers were more than twice as likely as women with no dependants to report home or family difficulties. A large minority of sole mothers and partnered mothers reported these difficulties, compared with a smaller proportion of women with no dependants. Home or family difficulties included responses about lack of time with children, and childcare problems.

Conversely, women with no dependants were twice as likely as mothers to experience social or leisure difficulties. Amongst others, these difficulties included disruptions to the respondent's social life, and a lack of time for leisure activities.

An odds ratio analysis (see table 7) showed that being a mother significantly decreased the odds of reporting social/leisure difficulties, and significantly increased the odds of reporting home/family difficulties.

Table 7
Odds ratio estimates for difficulties from working non-standard hours

By type of difficulty

 

Type of difficulty 

Mother vs non-mother 

Estimate 

95 percent confidence interval

p value 

Home/family difficulties 

3.77 

2.50 

5.62 

<0.01 

Social/leisure difficulties 

0.22 

0.12 

0.42 

<0.01 

Flexible working conditions

The majority of women surveyed did not spend time doing paid work from home over the previous four weeks. Sole mothers were as likely to work some hours from home (31.6 percent) as women with no dependants (30.4 percent).

Partnered mothers were more likely to work some hours from home - with 38.3 percent doing so. This could be explained by their employment status, as women who were self-employed or employers were more than twice as likely to have spent time working from home. Additionally, managers was the most likely occupation to have women who had worked from home.

Note: Most women who spent some time working from home over the four reference weeks did so for less than 20 hours.

Women who were employees were asked about job flexibility. Partnered mothers were most likely to be working in jobs that offer, or sometimes offer, flexible hours (54.7 percent). A smaller proportion of sole mothers (40.1 percent) worked for employers who offered or sometimes offered flexible hours than women with no dependent children (45.7 percent).

The higher proportion of partnered mothers with job flexibility is not easily explained by differences in industry between them and other women. The one industry partnered mothers were noticeably more concentrated in – education and training – was associated with lower-than-average job flexibility. However, women who were managers had a higher-than-average likelihood of having flexible working times – and partnered mothers were more likely to be managers than other women.

Work-related problems

The Survey of Working Life included two questions assessing work-related problems. To measure stress, respondents were asked how often they found being at work, or the work itself, stressful. To measure pain, respondents were asked how often they had physical problems or pain caused by work.

The reference period for each question was the past 12 months. Answers were scored on a 5-point Likert scale where a score of one represented 'always', a score of three represented 'sometimes', and a score of five represented 'never'.

Stress

The proportion of women who answered with 'always' or 'often' was similar across groups.

Figure 23

Graph, How often in the last 12 months women have found being at work, or the work itself, stressful, by parent status, December 2012 quarter.

However, women with no dependent children were less likely to find work 'hardly' or 'never' stressful during the past year. One-third chose this response, compared with 2 out of 5 mothers.

An odds ratio analysis confirmed this result, as the odds for mothers reporting 'hardly' or 'never' finding work stressful were higher than women with no dependent children. As expected, there was no significant difference for partnered women versus non-partnered women.

Table 8
Odds ratio estimates for 'hardly' or 'never' experiencing work stress

By parent status

Parent status

Estimate

95 percent confidence interval

p value

Parent vs non-parent

1.43

1.21

1.69

<0.01

The proportion of partnered mothers often or always experiencing stress from work varied little by age of youngest child. However, 27.5 percent of sole mothers with a youngest child aged 14 years or over found work the most stressful, compared with 23.0 percent of sole mothers with children between the ages of five and 14, and 14.2 percent of sole mothers with children under five years old.

Pain

The majority of women 'hardly' or 'never' experienced physical problems or pain because of their work. However, sole mothers were less likely to report 'hardly' or 'never' experiencing physical problems or pain (63.9 percent) than partnered mothers (75.6 percent), or women with no dependants (72.1 percent).

Part of this result could be due to the different distribution of sole mothers across occupations, as sole mothers were more likely to work in labourers and community and personal services occupations than other women, and these occupations were less likely to report 'hardly' or 'never' experiencing physical problems or pain.

The age of a mother's youngest child had an effect on the regularity with which she experienced physical problems or pain due to her work.

Figure 24

Graph, How often in the last 12 months women have had physical problems or pain because of work, by parent status and age group of youngest child, December 2012 quarter.

A two-way analysis of variance found a main effect for both age of youngest child and partner status (F(1, 2405) = 12.42, p < .01). The regularity with which a mother experienced pain or physical problems was higher for sole mothers (M = 3.93, SE = 0.06) than for partnered mothers (M = 4.21, SE = 0.03). The regularity was also higher for mothers with an older youngest child (14 and older: M = 3.95, SE = 0.09; five to 14: M = 4.15, SE = 0.04; younger than five: M = 4.25, SE = 0.04).

This relationship between age of youngest child and mothers' physical problems is could partly be due to the older ages of the mothers in the older age groups of the youngest child. The correlation between age of youngest child and mother's age (r(2412)= 0.61, p < 0.01) suggests this is the case.

However, the higher baseline physical problems or pain experienced by sole mothers is not explained by this correlation. The mean age of sole mothers with kids younger than five years is nearly identical to partnered mothers, yet they are more likely to experience problems. Furthermore, figure 24 shows the age of youngest child has more of an impact on sole mothers, as the percentage who experience problems jumps 20.1 percentage points from the youngest to the oldest age groups for their youngest child – compared to 6.7 percentage points for partnered mothers.

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