Underemployment, Fertility Intentions and Fertility in Australia

Nick Parr , Macquarie University

This paper explores the interrelationships between ‘time-related underemployment’ (where a worker is willing and available to work more hours than they currently do) and fertility intentions and births in Australia. Among OECD countries, Australia has one of the highest percentages of its labour force who work on a part-time, and one of the highest rates of time-related underemployment. Mothers feature disproportionately among the underemployed. As in a range of other More Developed Countries, Australia’s Total Fertility Rate has fallen since 2008. During the post-GFC period Australia’s underemployment rate increased significantly. Theoretically, the financial hardship associated with underemployment may result in a combination of postponed and reduced fertility. Changes to fertility intentions, especially not intending to have any more children, may also affect willingness and availability for work and, hence, underemployment. Whilst, the literature has examined the effects of rising unemployment and financial uncertainty more broadly on post-GFC fertility decline, it appears studies of the effects of underemployment per se are absent. Using data from the HILDA survey, this paper compares the actual and intended future fertility of underemployed women to those of women who see their work hours as sufficient, controlling for other fertility-related variables. Also using multivariate models, it examines the extent to which changes in underemployment follow changes in fertility intentions and parity, and the extent to which changes in fertility intentions and parity follow changes in underemployment. The implications of the findings for understanding recent fertility reduction and changing socioeconomic gradient are discussed.

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 Presented in Session 125. Labour Market Conditions and Fertility