Australian mothers are doing it for themselves by choosing self-employment as a solution to the lack of part-time options in the job market, according to new research from the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC).
Self-employment and work-family balance, co-authored by Associate Professor Lyn Craig, suggests that the responsibilities of motherhood and the inability of most companies to accommodate them may steer women towards self-employment.
"Women struggle to find interesting and fulfilling work that can be maintained around family life; self-employed mothers take this option because there is nothing else as flexible," said Associate Professor Craig, from the SPRC.
According to the report the typical self-employed mother is a sole trader who fits very short paid work hours around childcare and home duties. Few self-employed mothers run businesses which employ others.
''The evidence suggests permanent part-time work may be more financially secure, but not everyone has access to this option. Most maternal self-employment is akin to casual piece work in terms of numbers of hours and income,'' said Associate Professor Craig.
Although self-employment offers parents more flexibility, it has done little to challenge the gendered division of labour, with mothers more commonly down-grading their occupation to work from home than fathers.
The study also revealed that self-employed fathers spent just as few hours with children as men employed full-time outside the home.
''If anything, self-employment reinforces the roles of mothers as caregivers and fathers as breadwinners,'' said Associate Professor Craig.
Associate Professor Craig said the findings gave weight to the argument that governments needed to do more to make balancing work and family easier and more equitable.
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