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

Xian, Huiping; Atkinson, Carol 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 (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/PR-05-2020-0330

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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