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Pregnancy and childbirth's impact on work


The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released the next instalment of data from the survey of Pregnancy and Employment Transitions. This little known survey is conducted every six years as a special topic in the November Labour Force Survey. The first survey was undertaken in 2005 and the most recent survey in 2017. The current release provides comparisons to 2011 data, where relevant.

The survey captures a range of labour market information on women (and their partners) who had a child aged under two years in the survey reference month. It explores the connection to work before and after child birth, types and length of leave taken, changes to employment circumstances and return to work timeframes and methods. While the survey relates to a small segment of the civilian population aged 15 years and over, it provides some useful indicators for the uptake of available leave, the use of government payments and issues experienced in juggling work and parenthood (with the focus on mothers).

Work or leave status

For women who had a job while pregnant, data is available on industry, occupation, any perceived discrimination while pregnant, main reason for permanently leaving the job held and whether a baby bonus or paid parental leave was claimed. Reasons for not starting or returning to work are provided for all women. Chart 1 provides a summary of women’s work or leave status before the birth of their child (aged under two years) and at the time of the survey.

 1. Selected characteristics of women with a child aged under two years at November, 2011 and 2017

 Selected characteristics of women with a child aged under two years at November, 2011 and 2017 

Source: ABS, Pregnancy and Employment Transitions, Nov 2017, cat. no. 4913.0 (Table 25) 

Discrimination while pregnant

The rate of perceived discrimination was unchanged between 2011 and 2017. About one in five women (19%) stated that they felt subjected to some type of discrimination which included: missing out on promotions; missing out on training or development; inappropriate or negative comments from a manager or supervisor; and their job tasks, roles and/or responsibilities being changed without consultation.

Maternity leave

Chart 2 provides a breakdown by whether or not a woman took maternity leave. In 2017, as a share of all women with a child aged under two years, almost two-thirds (64%) were employees who took some form of leave while pregnant (up from 56% in 2011). The chart shows a decrease in the proportion of women who were not working while pregnant (29% in 2011 compared with 23% in 2017).

The survey also provides data on the duration and type of leave taken by women following their child’s birth. It shows the median duration of paid leave taken increased from 14.7 weeks in 2011 to 16 weeks in 2017. Over the same period, the median duration of unpaid leave decreased—from 20 weeks to 18 weeks.

2. Maternity leave taken by women with a child aged under two years at November, 2011 and 2017

 Maternity leave taken by women with a child aged under two years at November, 2011 and 2017

~  Excludes women working in their own incorporated business. Leave may have been paid or unpaid.

#  Women who permanently left their job before child birth or were away from their job while pregnant.

$  Women who worked in their own business and contributing family workers.

Source: ABS, Pregnancy and Employment Transitions, Nov 2017, cat. no. 4913.0 (Table 8)

Return to work

At November 2017, more than half (58%) of women with a child aged under two years were on some type of leave related to the birth or care of their child. There was an increase in women whose main reason for re/commencing work was due to financial reasons, from 54% in 2011 up to 69% in 2017. Four in five women (80%) used flexible work arrangements to assist with the care of their child.

 

The child’s age when their mother returned to work varied, but was limited to a maximum of 23 months due to the survey parameters. There was a decline in the proportion of women re/commencing work in the first three months following child birth—from 35% in 2011 to 26% in 2017. At the same time, there was also a slight increase in mothers delaying the re/commencement of work until their child was older (aged 10 months to under two years)—from 21% in 2011 to 25% in 2017.

3. Age of child when mother started or returned to work following child's birth, 2011 and 2017 

 Age of child when mother started or returned to work following child's birth, 2011 and 2017

Source: ABS, Pregnancy and Employment Transitions, Nov 2017, cat. no. 4913.0 (Table 14)

Care arrangements

For women who had started or returned to work since the birth of their child (aged under two years)—44% used formal care (e.g. long day care centre), 40% used informal care (e.g. grandparents) and the remainder (16%) indicated the child was with their partner. The use of informal care did not significantly change from 2011. However, there was a large increase in the proportion of families using formal care—up 11 percentage points from 33%. At the same time, care provided by a partner decreased by the same amount (down from 27%). Note that the ABS includes partner in the category of ‘informal care’, but for this summary they have been discussed separately.

Partners

The survey provides information on the woman’s partner, that is, the person with whom they were in a couple relationship (either registered or de facto, including same-sex couples). To be considered a partner, they had to be usually resident in the same household and be the same partner as during the woman’s pregnancy. The types of data available include: any leave the partner took for the birth of the child; their use of flexible working arrangements to assist with care; and the characteristics of their work (e.g. type, hours, industry).

Help with the data

For more information refer to the ABS publication. Clients of the Parliamentary Library can request assistance to interpret the statistics, navigate the ABS website or find other relevant data by contacting the Parliamentary Library.

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