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The Changing Gender Distribution of Paid and Unpaid Work in New Zealand - WP 05/07

3  Employment amongst couples

3.1  Changes in employment among couples

A key component of the growth in all-work households, illustrated in Figure 2, has been the growth of all-work couples, including couples raising children (Figure 3). One of the key drivers of this growth has been increasingly well-educated women joining their equally well-qualified partners in employment (Callister 1998). As Johnston (2005) demonstrates, using the 2001 Census, 47 percent of all partnered mothers with a child under five who had no formal qualifications participated in the labour market, while for those with post-school qualifications the figure was much higher at 64 percent.

Figure 3 – Proportion of couples where both partners are employed, 1986 to 2004
Figure 3 – Proportion of couples where both partners are employed, 1986 to 2004.
Source: Household Labour Force Survey.
Households where all members are outside the ages of 18-64 years have been removed from the analysis.

Figure 4 narrows the focus to couples with a child under five years of age. It uses Census data to show the growth of all-work and no-work childrearing couples over the period 1986 to 2001. It demonstrates that the major decline has been in “mixed work” couples, primarily those where the father worked full time and the mother was at home full time with the children. Future increases in partnered parents’ employment in New Zealand could come from those couples where neither partner is employed (where both, or either, mothers and fathers could move into employment) or from mixed-work couples (where it is mainly mothers who could move into employment).

Figure 4 – Employment patterns of couples with a child under 5, 1986 to 2001
Figure 4 – Employment patterns of couples with a child under 5, 1986 to 2001.
Source: The Census.
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