27% of women rely on grandparents for child care

MORE than a quarter of women either starting or returning to work after having a child rely on grandparents as the main carer, figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show.

Information about the employment experiences of women with children under the age of two years was collected in the Pregnancy and Employment Transitions 2011 survey.

Aspects of women's working experiences while pregnant and after returning to work were examined in the survey.

The survey, which also collected information on the type of leave used by women and their partner following the birth of the child, found 27% of women relied on grandparents for childcare when it was time to head back to the office.

Last month a report released by the Council on the Ageing showed grandparents saved parents almost $90 million a year on childcare in New South Wales alone.

COTA's Ian Day told ABC at the time grandparents were providing on average about 12 hours of care per week, with 10-20% of people aged over 65 providing unpaid care for their grandchildren.

He said some grandparents found it difficult to refuse requests to look after children despite feeling exploited.

ABS director of labour force and supplementary surveys Cassandra Gligora said the survey showed most women returned to the workforce on a part-time basis after having children.

"The survey results show that 86% of women who returned to work after the birth of their child used at least one flexible work arrangement to assist with the care of their child," Ms Gligora said.

"Most women (76%) returned to part-time work. Over one-third of these mothers returned to work when their child was seven to 12 months old.

"Over 25 per cent of the women surveyed stated that the main reason they returned to work after the birth of their child was to keep their job or that they were returning at their employer's request. This was followed by financial reasons, maintaining self-esteem and maintaining their career skills."

The survey also found about 22% of the 357,500 women who worked while pregnant, permanently left their job before the birth of their child.

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