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Future Fellow tackles gender inequality in frontline care

Australian Research Council Future Fellow Associate Professor Sara Charlesworth. The University of South Australia’s Associate Professor Sara Charlesworth will critically examine regulatory strategies to improve the quality of jobs held by frontline care workers as part of a $720, 400 Australian Research Council (ARC) Future Fellowship.   

Over four years, Assoc Prof Charlesworth will carry out an in-depth analysis of current employment regulation and funding policies that impact frontline care workers, who currently have poorer working time conditions than many of those in other heavily feminised sectors.

Based at UniSA’s Centre for Work + Life, Assoc Prof Charlesworth says her project aims to develop viable policy alternatives that allow both frontline care workers to work in decent jobs and quality care services to be delivered to vulnerable groups in our society.

“Despite policy concerns about unmet demand for paid care and the issues of attraction and retention, frontline care workers generally have poorer conditions than workers in other feminised sectors,” Assoc Prof Charlesworth says.  

“In Australia and internationally poorer labour standards reflect the undervaluing of work undertaken by mainly female non-professional personal care, home care and disability support workers.

“This investigation of regulatory options to improve the quality of care work will build Australian expertise and knowledge about the links between job quality and quality of care services.

“With the ageing of the population and the increasing demand for formal care, policy alternatives that can address job quality in frontline care work and examine links between job quality and service quality are critical.”

ARC’s Future Fellowships are awarded to exceptional mid-career researchers, who are contributing to research areas of critical national importance. Assoc Prof Charlesworth says her research will concentrate on two of Australian National Research Priority goals.

“My background is in social work, industrial relations, anti-discrimination law and legal studies and what I am passionate about is applying my research to real world problems,” she says.

“This research project directly addresses the national research goals of promoting and maintaining good health and strengthening Australia's social and economic fabric.”

In addition to the Future Fellowship, Assoc Prof Charlesworth is currently involved in a number of other ARC funded projects including a five year ARC Discovery project, which is investigating gender inequality in employment and the ways in which this problem could be mainstreamed as a central industrial relations issue.

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Rosanna Galvin office (08) 8302 0578 mobile 0434 603 457 email rosanna.galvin@unisa.edu.au

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