The availability of places at child care centres and the cost of child care influence the workplace participation rates of Australian women. As in many developed countries, women in Australia substantially limit their labour force participation when they have young children. However, in Australia, there are fewer women in paid employment, who are aged 25-39 and have children, than there are in New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. This is in light of there being no legislated right to paid maternity leave in Australia, and with the majority of women employees not entitled to it.
Some information about caring relationships includes:
- In 2005, 46% (1,553,400) of Australian children aged 0-12 years received some type of child care, with 21% receiving either solely formal or a combination of informal and formal child care.
- Grandparents were the main type of informal child carers.
- Having parents in employed work was the reason 84% of children attended after school care. 66% attended day care services, and 54% attended long day care.
- The median weekly cost per child for formal care was $31, but this increased in long day care to a median weekly cost of $50, and for children in care for more than 45 hours a week, the median rose to $150 a week.
- Women aged 28-33 years state similarly that the cost of child care is both a problem and not a problem for them (18.8% and 19.3% respectively). Of these women who did use child care it was mostly for between 11-20 hours a week, and in general women were satisfied with the number of hours they used for formal child care.
- The main reason parents gave for children not being in child care was because the service was booked out or had no places (33%), or because of the cost of services was too high (16%).
- Australian women with children report that child care is the main reason they do not seek paid work or increase their hours of paid work.
- Employed female parents are significantly more likely than employed male parents to make employment arrangements that accommodate care of children (73% and 34% respectively). These arrangements mainly include adopting flexible working hours or having permanent part-time work. This is similar in Victorian households, where 73% of employed female parents, compared with 31% of male parents, make work arrangements to assist with child care.
- Women are also the primary carers of elderly, disabled and mentally-ill members of the family. This responsibility greatly hinders a woman’s ability to fully participate in paid work. It is also found that carers not only suffer financially, but also emotionally, physically and socially.
- In 2005, for over 90% of primary carers, the main recipient of their care was a family member: a partner, a parent or a child, with 26% of primary carers being children (of any age) caring for parents. Almost half were caring for a parent living elsewhere.
Women from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds
- In Australia’s multicultural society, numbers of children from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds are increasing, and this has implications for child care services.
- One recent study of Anglo-Celtic, Somali and Vietnamese parents in Melbourne who used formal child care services for their children, found cultural variations between parenting and carer beliefs and behaviours to do with child care. Parents expected children to achieve areas of development earlier than child carers expected children to do so. Researchers state that this difference in expectation may place stress on children who find themselves torn between what their parents expect and what the child care service expects. Child carers in these services need to identify sources of difference between their service and parents’ expectations, and where there is negative impact on children, they need to modify their service.
 Crowther, E (2004). MI support, Mental Illness Fellowship. Autumn/Early Winter
 Lee, C. (2001). Family care giving: A gender-based analysis of women’s experience. In Payne, S. & Hill, E. (Eds). Chronic and terminal illnesses: new perspectives on caring and carers. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.