Work-family and work-life pressures in Australia: Advancing gender equality in 'good times'?

Barbara Pocock, Sara Charlesworth, Janine Chapman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    40 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: This paper aims to explore recent changes in Australia's work-family policies and programs and their implications for gender (in)equality. Design/methodology/approach: The authors critically assess a suite of new work/family-related policies, including the introduction of a government-funded national paid parental leave scheme, a limited right to request flexible working conditions, and the extension of state and federal anti-discrimination legal protections for workers with family responsibilities. Findings: The analysis suggests a lack of coherence and integration between various work/family related policies and the need for a wider range of reforms, particularly in relation to domestic work and care. It is found that the gendered use of flexibility rights, like the new right to request, do not necessarily improve gender equality and may work to entrench it in the face of strong gendered workplace and societal norms and practices around work and care. As a consequence women workers and mothers - who have been constructed as the work/family problem to be "fixed" - are left even more rushed and pressed for time. Originality/value: This empirically-informed analysis shows the power of the broader gender political and normative context and the limits of modest and piecemeal policy reform in relation to work-family issues - even where economic conditions remain relatively positive. The paper concludes that without robust, multi-faceted and integrated policy reform around work and family, in which gender equality outcomes are a central objective, policy reforms will fail to achieve a more equal sharing of paid and caring work between men and women, and greater equality between women and men more generally.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)594-612
    Number of pages19
    JournalInternational Journal of Sociology and Social Policy
    Issue number9-10
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


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