Part-time work

Solution for work–life balance and the gender perspective

It is widely reported that part-time work may be a convenient solution for parents (especially mothers) with small children wishing to remain in the labour market. It has been found that the fertility rate is strongly and positively linked with the part-time employment rate, suggesting that part-time work indeed creates an opportunity for women to combine a job with taking care of their children.
Some studies focus on the gender aspect of work–life balance. As women increase their amount of paid worked hours, men do not assume a greater share of the housework. Based on a study carried out in the Netherlands, Booth and van Ours (2010) found that there is a clear gender bias in the division of labour within the household. Where the male partner works full time, more hours worked by the female partner result in just a non-proportional decrease in housework, while male partner’s housework remains constant. This finding was confirmed by a report on the gender perspective of working conditions, based on the fourth European Working Conditions Survey - EWCS, which found that women work longer than men, especially if they work full-time, due to the unequal distribution of housework. Women working part-time also work longer than men, as they do most of the unpaid work.
This reflects the importance of the work–life balance for women, and may explain why many studies on part-time work concentrate exclusively on women.

The life course aspect

Mothers with small children are not the only group choosing to work part-time.
In most countries there is a high concentration of both male and female young people choosing this kind of work to supplement their income while completing their education. Once their education is finished, young people usually prefer to get a full-time job.

Women withdraw from the labour market to give birth and might stay at home with small children before deciding to re-enter on a part-time basis to reconcile work and family life. However, as their children grow up, they want full-time work once more. In some European countries the legal and social infrastructure allows or even facilitates this.

Older people may prefer to work part-time because of health problems or to make use of (financially) attractive gradual retirement schemes . In some European countries there are regulations (often based on sector collective agreements) for older workers to reduce their working hours with a less than proportional sacrifice of their wages. In addition, pension rights are calculated differently across Europe, some systems concentrating on the whole working career while others are based on the last five years of the working career.

Effect on life satisfaction

It has been suggested that there is a strong gender bias regarding the relationship between the number of hours worked and life satisfaction. For example, Booth and van Ours (2009) found that the life satisfaction of women who have a male partner is reduced if they themselves work full-time, especially if they work 40 or more hours. At the same time, their male partner’s life satisfaction is unaffected by partner’s market hours, but it is increased if they themselves work full-time. This suggests that while men are ‘happier’ if they work full-time, women are more satisfied if they work shorter hours, as long as their partner has a full-time job.
In a different study, Booth and van Ours (2010) found that while men are happier if they work longer hours, they also prefer their female partner to work part-time.

Effect on promotion prospects

A previous Eurofound report established that part-time workers are less likely to be promoted than full-time workers. Other studies found that non-standard employment is more common in jobs with no career ladders and thus with no promotion prospects.
High qualifications, longer full-time experience, long tenure at the workplace and being in a professional or management position generally all have a positive effect on promotion chances. It has been confirmed (taking into account workplace, industry, human capital and personal characteristics) that those in non-standard employment are less likely to be promoted. Within non-standard employment, temporary full-time workers are still more likely to be promoted than regular part-time or temporary part-time workers. However, some reporst conclude that this applies only to women (who dominate nonstandard employment).

Effect on pay

A significant number of reports analyse the pro rata pay gap between part-time workers and full-time workers, for both men and women. For example, O’Dorchai et al (2011) showed that the part-time pay gap for men ranges from 16% to 49% in the six EU countries analysed. Some researchers (Fouarge and Muffels, 2009) demonstrated that part-time work history in the previous 10 years has a scarring effect on the current wage. The part-time pay gap is also connected to the general difference in pay between men and women.

Role in increasing the employment rate

An increase in part-time work is often expected to boost the overall employment rate. The following scatter diagram compares the part-time rate and the employment rate in European countries.                                     
While this analysis does not take into account other factors that may affect the employment rate, it divides European countries into two groups: one group has a high part-time rate and generally a higher employment rate as well (the Nordic countries as well as the Netherlands, Austria, and Germany), while the other group has lower part-time rates and employment rates (especially Hungary, Poland, Romania). Exceptions are Finland, Portugal, Slovenia and Cyprus with a comparatively high employment rate (all nearly 70%) and a lower-than-average part-time rate (14%, 12% 11% and 8%, respectively.