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Families Commission Abstract This article reports on findings from a multi-method study on long working hours and their impact on family life.
It draws on data from the New Zealand Census, a review of the literature, and a small qualitative study involving in-depth interviews with 17 families with dependent children in which at least one partner was working long hours.
The study found that parents' working hours were driven by the requirements of their jobs, income, and the cultures of their workplaces, as well as the satisfaction work provided.
Many parents felt unable to reduce their hours, despite believing that their hours had a variety of negative impacts on family life. A number of factors mediated the impact of long hours of work, including the availability of extended family for childcare and support; having flexible work arrangements and control over hours of work including both the number of hours and when hours were worked ; and how satisfied spouses were with both the number of hours of paid work and the impact of these hours on the availability of the long-hours worker to spend time with children and to do a share of the household chores.
The article concludes by noting that long hours are just one factor among many that affect family functioning and wellbeing. Long working hours1 are a significant issue for a number of reasons. It has been known for some time that working hours in New Zealand are among the highest in the world.
Messenger compared the working hours of employees in a variety of countries, and found that only Japan topped New Zealand in the proportion of employees working 50 or more hours per week. Similarly, Callister found that New Zealand appears at the high end of the spectrum internationally when long weekly hours of work are considered, for both couples and individuals.
He found that the proportion of employees working long hours has increased in the past 20 years, while the average hours worked has remained relatively stable, due to an increasing polarisation of working hours. Long working hours affect a significant number of New Zealand families.
Census data show that the largest group of long-hours workers have no qualifications, and that those who work the longest hours are lower income Fursman As such, while there are significant proportions of long-hours workers earning high salaries in management positions, some of the parents Families family and long time these hours are those least likely to be able to negotiate working arrangements conducive to family wellbeing.
Of the couples who worked or more hours between them, there were 12, couples with dependent children where both partners worked 50 or more hours each.
The literature suggests that long hours of work can have a variety of impacts on family wellbeing, including providing greater income but also negatively affecting time available for family members.
As an advocate for families, the Families Commission was interested in not only which families worked long hours, but also in the impact such hours have on families, particularly those with dependent children.
The objectives for this project were to: Across definitions, most descriptions and measurements of wellbeing seem to contain both subjective and objective measures, which commonly include physical, material, social, psychological and health factors. Defining and measuring family wellbeing is complicated by the fact that there is no commonly agreed definition of individual wellbeing.
As such, the impact of a variable like working hours affects both the individual worker and their family, directly and indirectly.
In line with this, the project focused on the views of the long-hours worker regarding the impact of long working hours on their family life, with their partner in most cases also participating in the interview.
Because of ethical and resource implications, data from children in the families were not gathered. In a report on using census data to construct indicators of family wellbeing in New Zealand, Milligan et al.
In Milligan et al. The model was used as the basis for the interview schedules for this project, and shaped the analysis of the collected data. It began with a literature review, which canvassed recent research on the impact of long working hours on the family.
The results of this review are reported throughout this article.
The review highlighted the fact that while there is a reasonable body of literature examining the impact of long working hours on various aspects of family life, the bulk of previous research tended to be large quantitative studies conducted outside New Zealand.
The majority of these studies focused on just one aspect of family wellbeing e. However, few studies provided a more holistic discussion of the range of impacts of long working hours on families, with even fewer including the voices of family members themselves.
Other studies have examined the impact of work on family life, but have not focused in detail on long working hours Ministry of Social Development For this reason, a mixed-method approach was selected for this project, which included both quantitative data from the most recent New Zealand Census and qualitative data from a small but diverse group of families who had at least one parent working long hours.
While the literature review was being conducted, analysis of the New Zealand Census was carried out as part of a joint project between the Families Commission and the Department of Labour. Results for some of these analyses are included throughout this paper.
The results of the Census project were used to set the parameters for the selection of families for inclusion in the qualitative stage of the research. This ensured that the long-hours workers included in the qualitative research were drawn from the groups who are most likely to be working long hours.
Families were chosen where a parent worked long hours and was employed in an occupation or industry shown by the Census to involve high proportions and numbers of long-hours workers. The study targeted families where the parent working long hours was employed in roading, in a management position, in education, as a hospitality or retail manager, or worked in agriculture.
In addition, families where the parent working long hours was self-employed or held multiple jobs were targeted. As the majority of long-hours workers in the Census were male, the parent working long hours was male in 12 of the 17 families selected.
Families were also selected to include a range of ethnicities, and a range of number and ages of children; however, because of the small number of families involved, differences in results by gender or ethnicity can not be reported.
Families in both rural and urban regions participated, and across a variety of ages, although the criterion of having dependent children meant there were natural age boundaries around the sample.
Analysis of the income of long-hours workers in the Census suggested that both families with a parent who worked long hours and had a relatively high income and families where a parent worked extremely long hours for relatively little compensation should be included, so both these factors were among the criteria for family selection.
The qualitative research was designed to elicit the voices of families across a range of different circumstances, and to illustrate the diversity of experiences families have with long working hours.Family goal setting pulls your family together and enriches family life.
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