Work and Family Directions in the US and Australia: A Policy Research Agenda

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 12/02

Date: July 2002


Robert Drago
Rosanna Scutella
Amy Varner


This paper provides a comparative glimpse of work/family issues in Australia and the US. It begins with a summary of an emerging vision of ideal policies and practices for work and family. The paper then provides historical background for the recent emergence of a care gap in both countries, focusing on key commonalities and differences. The current status of the gap and the related default solution to the gap are then outlined. Key commonalities here include an increasing diversity of family forms, a rise in delayed and denied childbearing, and substantial gender inequality. Significant current divergence across the societies includes relatively more family-responsive governmental policies in Australia, more attractive part-time opportunities for mothers in Australia, a relatively more equal division of labor in the home in the US, a greater prevalence of corporate-sponsored work/family policies in the US, and greater coverage of Australian employees by work/family policies negotiated through enterprise agreements. A tentative research agenda is provided in conclusion, focusing on part-time employment options, work incentives and child care for single parents, the causes of delayed and denied childbearing, and enterprise bargaining and corporate policies.

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