Employee Retention in the Tasmanian Care Economy

Employee Retention in the Tasmanian Care Economy: Understanding social factors and psychological capital

Degree type


Closing date

25 September 2023



Citizenship requirement

Domestic / International

About the research project

This project aims to understand and improve employee retention in the Tasmanian care economy. The care economy is Australia's largest employer, with over 1.8m workers in public and private services from social housing to childcare (Care Economy CRC, 2021). Care work is gendered affective labour that is typically low paid and precarious, meaning that the sector is reliant on the resilience of workers with few conventional employment benefits or protections (Baines et al, 2019; McDonald, 2021). The sector is therefore characterised by low employee retention rates, with many new starters leaving within their first week of employment (TasCOSS, 2022). This is pertinent in Tasmania given its regional geography and demography, which present distinct challenges for recruitment and retention.

This project will apply the concept of psychological capital (PsyCap) to a study of Tasmanian care workers, to develop an improved understanding of the relationship between social factors and individual PsyCap (Dóci et al, 2023). PsyCap is "an individual's positive psychological state of development characterized by: (I) having confidence (self-efficacy) to take on and put in the necessary effort to succeed at challenging tasks; (2) making a positive attribution (optimism) about succeeding now and in the future; (3) persevering towards goals and, when necessary, redirecting paths to goals (hope) in order to succeed; and (4) when beset by problems and adversity, sustaining and bouncing back and even beyond (resiliency) to attain success" (Luthans et al, 2007, p. 3). Recent meta-analyses have demonstrated that PsyCap can positively predict various positive employee outcomes, as well as provide a buffer against various negative employee outcomes including job satisfaction, work engagement, job performance, turnover intentions, and burnout (e.g., Loghman et al, 2023). This research will therefore provide unique insights into how Tasmanian care organisations can understand employee's psychological capital, to support resilence and improve retention.


  • Baines, D., Kent, P., & Kent, S. (2019). 'Off My Own Back': Precarity on the Frontlines of Care Work. Work, Employment and Society, 33(5), 877–887. https://doi.org/10.1177/0950017018817488
  • Care Economy CRC (2021), Care Economy CRC brochure. Produced but not published by La Trobe University and partner institutions.
  • Dóci, E., Knappert, L., Nijs, S., & Hofmans, J. (2023). Unpacking psychological inequalities in organisations: Psychological capital reconsidered. Applied Psychology, 72(1), 44-63. https://doi.org/10.1111/apps.12379
  • Loghman, S., Quinn, M., Dawkins, S., Woods, M., Om Sharma, S., & Scott, J. (2023). A Comprehensive Meta-Analyses of the Nomological Network of Psychological Capital (PsyCap). Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 30(1), 108–128. https://doi.org/10.1177/15480518221107998
  • Luthans, F., Youssef, C. M., & Avolio, B. J. (2007). Psychological capital: Developing the human competitive edge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • McDonald, F. (2021). Individualising risk: Paid care work in the new gig economy. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-33-6366-3
  • TasCOSS (2022). Workforce Coalition Meeting. Launceston, Tasmania. 22nd November.

Primary Supervisor

Meet A/Prof Tim Butcher


Applicants will be considered for a Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship or Tasmania Graduate Research Scholarship (TGRS) which, if successful, provides:

  • a living allowance stipend of $31,500 per annum (2023 rate, indexed annually) for 3.5 years
  • a relocation allowance of up to $2,000
  • a tuition fees offset covering the cost of tuition fees for up to four years (domestic applicants only)

If successful, international applicants will receive a University of Tasmania Fees Offset for up to four years.

As part of the application process you may indicate if you do not wish to be considered for scholarship funding.

Other funding opportunities and fees

For further information regarding other scholarships on offer, and the various fees of undertaking a research degree, please visit our Scholarships and fees on research degrees page.


Applicants should review the Higher Degree by Research minimum entry requirements.

Ensure your eligibility for the scholarship round by referring to our Key Dates.

Additional eligibility criteria specific to this project/scholarship:

  • Completion of prior honours/postgraduate study in Human Resource Management, Psychology, or other related fields
  • Proven track record of quantitative and/or qualitative research study
  • Evidence of excellent written and verbal English and scientific communication skills

Selection Criteria

The project is competitively assessed and awarded.  Selection is based on academic merit and suitability to the project as determined by the College.

Additional essential selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Completion of honours/postgraduate research (eg Research Masters or Masters degree with Research specialisation) in Human Resource Management, Psychology, or other related fields, evidenced by dissertation or equivalent (refer to minimum entry requirements)
  • A research proposal that demonstrates an understanding of the research problem to be addressed and outlines the broad theoretical and methodological approaches to be applied in this research project
  • Interest or experience in the care economy, and/or work and employment in regional economies
  • Experience of conducting quantitative or qualitative research, evidenced by an Honours/Masters dissertation or equivalent
  • Evidence of excellent written and verbal English and scientific communication skills

Additional desirable selection criteria specific to this project:

  • Evidence of academic writing/presentation via academic conferences or journals

Application process

  1. Select your project, and check that you meet the eligibility and selection criteria, including citizenship;
  2. Contact A/Prof Tim Butcher to discuss your suitability and the project's requirements; and
  3. In your application:
    • Copy and paste the title of the project from this advertisement into your application. If you don’t correctly do this your application may be rejected.
    • Submit a signed supervisory support form, a CV including contact details of 2 referees and your project research proposal.
  4. Apply prior to 25 September 2023.

Full details of the application process can be found under the 'How to apply' section of the Research Degrees website.

Following the closing date applications will be assessed within the College. Applicants should expect to receive notification of the outcome by email by the advertised outcome date.

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