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How work-life conflict affects employee outcomes of Chinese only-children academics: the moderating roles of gender and family structure

Atkinson, Carol and Xian, Huiping and Meng-Lewis, Yue (2021) How work-life conflict affects employee outcomes of Chinese only-children academics: the moderating roles of gender and family structure. Personnel Review. ISSN 0048-3486 (In Press)

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Abstract

Abstract Purpose - China’s controversial one-child policy has been blamed for creating an aging population, a generation of employees without siblings and a 4-2-1 family structure that places eldercare responsibility, primarily, on women. Current understanding of how this affects contemporary employees’ work-life interface is lacking. This study examined the moderating roles of family structure and gender in the relationships between work-life conflict (WLC), job satisfaction and career aspiration for university academics. Design/methodology/approach – Online and self-administered surveys were used to collect data, which involved 420 academic staff in three Chinese research universities. Findings – Our results revealed that WLC is positively related to career aspiration, and this relationship is stronger for academics with siblings and, within the only-children group, significantly stronger for women than for men. WLC is also negatively related to job satisfaction and this relationship is stronger for only-children academics. Research limitations/implications – Results were limited by a cross-sectional sample of modest size. Nevertheless, this study contributes to the understanding of gender roles and changing family structure in the work-life interface of Chinese academics. Practical implications – Our findings have implications for both universities seeking to improve staff wellbeing and for wider society. A number of support mechanisms are proposed to enhance the ability of only children, especially women, to operate as effective members of the labour market. Originality/value – Our results showed that only-children academics face a unique set of difficulties across career and family domains, which have been previously neglected in literature.

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