Sharna Raley says “I was working five days a week with overtime and couldn’t commit to that level of responsibility.” She is pictured with daughter Evie. Picture: Damian Shaw
Sharna Raley says “I was working five days a week with overtime and couldn’t commit to that level of responsibility.” She is pictured with daughter Evie. Picture: Damian Shaw

Why women don’t return to work after baby

NEW mums are returning to the workforce at an unprecedented rate with more than three quarters of working mothers going back to their previous job.

But industry experts have warned Australia still has a long way to go to catch up to other developed countries, with high childcare costs and lack of employer flexibility keeping many mums out of work.

New ABS data examining pregnancy and employment transitions found fewer women permanently left their pre-baby job last year, with 77 per cent staying in the same role in 2017, up from 71 per cent in 2011.

In a positive development, a higher proportion of those mums are now also returning to work with the same responsibilities, up from 59 per cent in 2011, compared to 65 per cent in 2017.

University of Queensland senior research fellow Michelle Brady said Australia had a lot of work to do to increase workforce participation rates among mothers.

"Because of the way our tax system and childcare subsidy system is set up, there's not really that incentive or support for women to go back to work," Dr Brady said.

Alexandra with two-year-old Mia. Picture: Annette Dew
Alexandra with two-year-old Mia. Picture: Annette Dew


"It's still common for women to be moved into less fulfilling roles after parenting leave or not allowed to do as fulfilling work when they return on part-time hours.

"Australia has a long way to go and the overall picture is we're not making much progress at all and we really need to look at what other countries are doing and work harder, otherwise it's going to be a very long time until we have greater equity."

Audiologist Sharna Raley, 32, from Church Point stepped down from management to clinical work when she returned to work after having daughter Evelyn, 13 months.

"I was working five days a week with overtime and couldn't commit to that level of responsibility when I had to rush home to pick her up from daycare," she said.

"It's really hard for women, you have to step back from those things you are used to but I want to see her in the evening, I want to bathe her and I need to finish work earlier."

She now works a nine day fortnight, but said it wouldn't be possible without the help of Evelyn's grandparents.

"Grandparents hold the economy, I don't know how other people do it when they don't have family help. She's with them three days a week and two days at childcare," Ms Raley said.

"I know other people who work three days, but when you crunch the numbers working part time means life is so expensive."



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