Mothers’ labour force participation

Mothers’ Labour Force Participation (pdf)
01 Dec 2009

Analysis of comparative data from both the 2001 and 2006 Census of Population and Dwellings on mothers’ labour force participation, 2009.

Key Results

Key findings from the analysis of data from the 2006 Census of Population and Dwellings showed that, for women with dependent children, the two main factors influencing labour force participation are the mother’s qualification and the age of the youngest child. In particular, mothers with a post-school qualification had a higher participation rate than mothers with school qualifications or no qualifications, while participation of mothers was higher as the age of the mother’s youngest children increased. Other results show that:

  • older mothers have higher participation rates than younger mothers.
  • the participation rate for partnered mothers was higher than that of sole mothers
  • the participation of mothers was lower when there was a higher number of dependent children.

In relation to changes between 2001 and 2006, the majority of sub-groups of women with dependent children experienced an increase in their labour force participation rate. However, some groups did not. Participation rates for sole mothers with no qualifications or post-school qualifications declined over a time when there was strong labour demand. While accounting for just 3 and 4 percent of all females aged 20 to 54 years respectively, the decline suggests that childcare responsibilities and the associated cost of childcare may make employment a less feasible option. Further quantitative or qualitative research may be appropriate to determine whether these patterns are due to choices made by sole mothers in terms of employment, or whether there are other factors preventing them from entering the labour force.

Page last modified: 15 Mar 2018