Rurality and workforce participation: Exploring the prevalence of part-time and insecure work in Grampians public sector roles

This research explored part-time and insecure public sector work in the Grampians region.

The research team

Federation University:

  • Dr Cathy Tischler
  • Dr Kelsey McDonald
  • Ms Emma Dallamora
  • Professor Keir Reeves

What was the research about?

The research explored the structural barriers rural women face when pursuing a career in the public sector. The research focused on women living in the Grampians region of Victoria.

How was the research conducted?

The research involved:

  • data review and analysis
  • interviews and focus groups.

Researchers analysed data from the Commission and interviews with executives, managers, and staff. A total of 9 public sector organisations participated in the study:

  • 3 health services
  • 6 local governments or statutory authorities.

All participating organisations were located in the Grampians region. There were 75 interviews in total, with 39 group and 36 individual interviews.

What did the research find?

  • Employees, especially women, are deciding what hours they can work independently of workplaces.
  • Some employees get more flexible work options than others. This impacts career progression and is also causing a divide in the workforce. Front-facing (customer service) and senior management roles have the least flexibility.
  • Women are hesitant to take on higher-level management roles in organisations. This is because these jobs often have limited flexibility and a broad range of responsibilities. These responsibilities are typically managed by teams in metropolitan areas.
  • Senior roles are less appealing due to fewer chances to progress locally in the future. As a result, women may hold off on advancing in their careers. This is to ensure that they don't run out of progression options in their region.
  • Limited childcare and afterschool care is impacting women’s workforce participation. This is increasing the extent of part-time and casual work in rural communities.
  • Rural organisations are meeting gender equality requirements by allocating a staff member for this work. It is not yet part of workplace culture.


Recommendations for organisations

  • Re-structure work within organisations to normalise flexibility.
  • Senior leaders should normalise and role-model workplace flexibility and collaboration.
  • Support future women leaders to develop and progress in their careers.
  • Advocate for funding changes that will make rural childcare more sustainable.
  • Advocate for funding to improve services for school-aged children, such as after-school care.
  • Build a workplace culture that values flexible work. This will reduce hidden barriers to workplace equity.
  • Create a safe environment for people of all genders to embrace caring responsibilities.

Read the full report

Rurality and Workforce Participation: Exploring the Prevalence of Part-Time and Insecure Work in the Grampians Public Sector Roles
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Citing this research

Tischler C, McDonald K, Dallamora E and Reeves K, ‘Rurality and Workforce Participation: Exploring Prevalence of Part-time and Insecure Work in Grampians Public Service Roles’, Federation University Australia, 2023