GENDER, TIME AND WORK (2)

Part-time work

What does creating "family friendly" jobs mean in practice? So far, it has essentially meant part-time work.
Of all the working time arrangements that can be used to make jobs more adaptable to outside work
demands, part-time work is by far the most widely used.

The increase in part-time work is probably the most important development in European labour markets over the last 20 years, coinciding of course with the massive incorporation of women into employment.
Part-time work is mainly a female phenomenon (almost 80% of EU part-timers are women), and again, it is most prevalent in those years in which the female family/household burden is most pressing. In this way, part-time work can be perceived as a ‘family-friendly’ type of work that may allow more women to integrate into the labour market. There is a correlation between the percentage of part-time work and the employment rate of women: in those countries with a higher percentage of part-time work, more women
participate in the labour market (see Figure 3).
 

Share of part-time workers in total employment - 2014

But is part-time work the solution to the work–life conflict faced by many women?   Probably not, at least not in the way it is currently regulated and practised in most EU countries. Full-time work is still preferred by most people, and very often part-time work is simply the consequence of the lack of feasible alternatives for combining work and non-work demands (only 30% of EU part-timers say that they took a part-time job because ‘they did not want a full-time job’).

Involuntary part-time employment as percentage of total part-time employment, 2012


What is more, research evidence points to a certain degree of discrimination against part-time workers in terms of career prospects, salary, job tenure and access to supplementary benefits in most EU countries.      Part-time Unless the conditions of part-time work are improved so that it can become a real and reasonable alternative to full-time work, it is likely to remain to a certain extent an involuntary and discriminatory working-time system.

Full-time work

If part-time work is not the solution, therefore, one should consider how to make full-time work more flexible and adaptable to the personal needs of workers – particularly for European women carrying the burden of disproportionate family/household responsibilities.
Recent research shows that there are three main difficulties in combining full-time work with family responsibilities:

1. First, the ‘long hours’ culture prevalent in some jobs often makes participation by women with family responsibilities difficult.
For instance, evidence suggests that one of the main reasons behind the lower proportion of women in managerial positions is the very long working hours usually demanded of managers.

2. A second difficulty is the unpredictability of work schedules that affects some types of jobs (again, unpredictability is higher in managerial and professional occupations, and also in some sectors such as hotels and restaurants), placing them outside the scope of women with family responsibilities.
Work schedules that are regular and predictable make it easier to combine full-time work and family life.

3. The final and probably most important difficulty in combining family and fulltime work in Europe is the lack of access to flexible working-time arrangements. Most European jobs have rigid time schedules, with very limited possibilities for workers to adapt working times to their needs. According to the fourth European Working Conditions Survey, more than two thirds of European employees have fixed working schedules, with no possibilities for change; and according to the European Establishment Survey of Working Time, only around 13% of all European establishments offer advanced forms of flexible time arrangements such as working time accounts or annualised working hours.
So there is no doubt there is room for improvement in this area, improvement which would have a substantial impact on the capacity of European workers (male and female) to adapt paid working hours to the demands of life outside work.
 Full-time work

An effective work–life balance policy, based on long-term goals of gender equality, widespread access to child and adult care services, and more flexibility for workers to adapt their working times to the demands of
their private lives, would certainly improve the lives of European women, while at the same time
increasing overall employment rates and the productive capacity of the European economy.