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Is self-employment a good option? Gender, parents and the work-family interface


Dinh, H and Martin, A and Leach, L and Strazdins, L and Nicholson, J and Allen, T and Cooklin, A, Is self-employment a good option? Gender, parents and the work-family interface, Sex Roles pp. 1-16. ISSN 0360-0025 (2020) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2020 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature

DOI: doi:10.1007/s11199-020-01195-1


Self-employment is a career decision that is likely to be influenced by the gendered dynamics of work and care for parents of young children. We test a theoretical model investigating the effect a transition into self-employment (compared to staying organizationally-employed) has on the work-family interface (work-to-family, family-to-work conflicts and work-family enrichment), exploring the key mechanisms of job autonomy, flexibility and work hours for mothers and fathers. We theorize gender differences in this model which we test using national, cohort data of Australian parents’ employment transitions over 5 time points (2004–2012), with n = 4165 observations from mothers and n = 5059 from fathers. For fathers, self-employment yielded longer work hours, higher work-family conflicts, but lower family-work conflicts, and enhanced enrichment. For mothers, self-employment heralded fewer work hours, lower work-family conflicts, but higher family-work conflicts. Job autonomy was enhanced, and positive for those transitioning into self-employment. While flexibility was positive for fathers, it was not so for mothers, eroding benefits. Results suggest that moving into self-employment ties fathers to ‘breadwinning’ (long hours); and mothers to fitting work more squarely around children’s care needs. Self-employment may entrench gender inequities in paid work opportunities, bringing caution to the current view of self-employment as a ‘solution’ to the work-family dilemma.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:self-employment, work-family conflict, parents, work-family enrichment, job control, flexible work, occupational health, work and family
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Health services and systems
Research Field:Mental health services
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Mental health
UTAS Author:Martin, A (Professor Angela Martin)
ID Code:141363
Year Published:2020
Deposited By:Menzies Institute for Medical Research
Deposited On:2020-10-16
Last Modified:2021-04-26

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