Balancing paid work and family responsibilities is a major issue for employers, governments and families across the western world (OECD, 2002). In light of rapid changes in the roles and responsibilities of men and women, and in the organisation and distribution of paid work, it is vital that the impact of the balance between work and family has on family life, child development and wellbeing is understood.
Why is this issue important?
Recent years has seen dramatic changes in the work patterns of parents. Just over two decades ago, a majority of Australian couples with young children fitted the male breadwinner pattern of father in the workforce, mother at home. Today, only 31% conform to this model. Twice as many families (62%) have both parents at work, and 57% of sole parents with children are employed (Pocock, 2003).
The working lives of parents have also become more diversified. There has been a large shift away from full-time and towards part-time work, a rise in the proportion of workers who are employed as casuals, and in those working long hours (Edgar, 2005; Richardson, 2005; Watson et al, 2003).