Volume 42 - Article 19 | Pages 549–588  

Childcare arrangements and working mothers’ satisfaction with work‒family balance

By Bruno Arpino, Francesca Luppi


Background: Difficulties with work‒family reconciliation contribute to explaining the low participation of women in the labour market and low fertility levels in several developed countries. Understanding how much different types of childcare can help mothers to balance family and work is crucial for implementing ad hoc policies.

Objective: This study examines whether working mothers’ satisfaction with work‒family balance is associated with different combinations of paid and unpaid childcare arrangements. Difficulties in using different types of childcare are also considered.

Methods: We use random effects models on panel data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey (2003‒2013).

Results: Results show that a balanced mix of paid and unpaid childcare is associated with mothers’ highest satisfaction. Difficulties related to the affordability and the flexibility of paid childcare negatively relate to the satisfaction with work‒family balance. Moreover, even after adjusting for experienced difficulties, the “mixed” arrangement guarantees the most satisfying combination of work and family responsibilities.

Contribution: Taken together, our analyses are suggestive of the idea that improving the flexibility and the affordability of paid childcare services is a way to increase mothers’ satisfaction with the work‒family balance. The issue might become even more urgent if we consider that grandparents’ availability is not so obvious in a context where young people work and live at long distance from their original family, and when age at first (grand)parenthood is increasing.

Author's Affiliation

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