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Part time work

Definition of part-time work differs from country to country as a result of which there has been an attempt to measure part-time work on the basis of a uniform threshold of usual hours. As approved by the OECD Working party on Employment and Unemployment statistics at its 1996 meeting, part-time job is defined as work done for 30 hours or less than 30 hours a week therefore a part-time worker is an employee working less than 30 hours or 30 hours a week (OECD 1997, Lemaitre et al)


There has been considerable rise in part-time work in the recent years and evidence suggests that it is rapidly rising across the OECD, Netherlands (36% of total employment in 2008), Australia (24%), Switzerland (26%), UK (23%), Germany (22%), lower in US (12%) and France (13.4%), (OECD 2009). According to evidence, there is difference in part-time rates across countries which can be because of the variations in the legal, social and economic systems.


The reasons for the rise in part-time work can be attributed to the erosion of internal labour market and a shift towards flexible firm models (Atkinsons 1984) and periphery workers to attain numerical and financial flexibility, however it is not just the employer's choice which determines part-time employment, but it also depends on a number of other factors like production systems requiring non-standard or flexible hours, competitive conditions in the product market, labour regulations, Government and trade union activity and labour market conditions (Fagan et al 1995). A slowdown in economic activity where unemployment is high also induces an increase in part-time employment as people are more eager to take any form of employment.


Cost considerations by employers also give rise to part-time employment as the hourly wages of part-time workers are lower than their comparable full time workers in countries like Europe, USA. (Delsen, 1995)


Part-time work tends to be more apparent in the service sector in countries like United Kingdom, Australia, Netherlands where the employment is about 80 percent part-time (OECD 1983; Delsen 1995). Further it is more apparent in low-skill and lower occupational levels like cleaning, catering, sales etc. (Meulders et al 1993; OECD 1994)


(Delsen 1998) concludes that female employees making the supply side of labour is one of the most prominent reasons in the increase of part-time employment. Men and women work part-time due to different reasons and different stages in their life cycle. Women tend to work part-time when they have children, other reasons could include easier ways to start their careers. Evidence from Europe and America suggests that transition rates are higher for women when it comes to shifting from part-time to full time than for shifting from part-time to full time. Young people are more likely to take on part-time employment as a way to enter labour market and start their careers where as for older workers it is a way of exit from the labour market. People are also likely to take on part-time employment as a result of financial incentives (O'Reilly 1996).


Keeping in perspective the different reasons for working part-time, it can be accomplished that part-time employees are not a homogenous group; in fact they compromise different groups which voluntarily or involuntarily enter part-time employment (Feldman 1990). These include students who want to earn extra cash while studying, caretakers who want some extra time to take care of dependents, involuntary part-time workers which enter part-time employment as a result of scarcity of available full time jobs , as a way of moving into a full time career or as a result of being tied into a specific location. Another group can be identified as the voluntary part-time workers as a way of slowly moving into retirement, exploring a new field etc (Thorsteinson 2005)


As proposed part-time work is more of a positive experience as it is a way of managing work and non-work activities (Barnett and Gareis 2002). Therefore it provides more discretion in terms of offering more flexibility by providing convenient hours and therefore providing less stress (Hakim 1996).


However, contradictory to how it is proposed, part-time work also includes constraints in terms of control, flexibility and benefits and to highlight this point, two streams of contrasting perspectives on part-time employment are taken into consideration. One deals with the optimal choices of employees and their employers which is supported by a vast majority of workers taking up part-time work to cater for household responsibilities etc. The other view concerns the labour market and its segmentation with part-time jobs belonging to the secondary sector in that many part-time workers are in part-time employment involuntarily and wish to shift to full time employment. With respect to the second view, evidence reveals that part-time work is more like a low quality job with part-time employees earning less and receiving fewer benefits than their full time counterparts while experiencing lower job security (Houseman and Osawa 1998).


Further to the second perspective, the investment in part-time employees is limited as organizations are more focused on investing and retaining their full time employees as opposed to investing in the secondary labour market. The wages of part-time workers also tend to be lower than their full time counterparts. There is a larger gap in UK than in Australia or Sweden (OECD 1994). Women in part-time employment tend to earn 75% of the wages of their full time counterparts (Rubery 1989). Part-time workers also receive fewer non-wage benefits like they have limited access to employer provided health insurance and other benefits like sickness, disability, maternity etc (Callaghan and Hartman 1991). Part-time workers also tend to miss out on career advancement opportunities (Durivage 1986).


In addition to poorer wages and working conditions of part-time employees as compared to full-time employees, other problems include status divide and hierarchal tensions due to issues of flexibility where part-time employees feel inferior to their full time counterparts and are considered second class. They are allocated unfavorable tasks and are excluded from staff meetings as they are held outside their contracted hours (Smith 1994). Part-time workers were also given less training and less product knowledge (Walsh 2007)


Therefore it can be argued that the presence of part-time work and flexibility may not necessarily relieve the employee of the temporal pressures. Further there is incidence of overtime working/ long hours in part-time workers. They experience time based pressures and conflicts with non-work activities as a result of working overtime thus rendering part-time work not in line with worker's working time preferences. (Greenhaus and Beutell 1985)


Part-time employees are also sometimes compelled to work paid overtime at short notice (Walsh 2007). In the study conducted by Walsh 2007, two-thirds of the part-time female employees stated that they often had to work unpaid overtime. They were also under pressure to work overtime as a result of lack of relief and support staff and considerable amount of overtime could be expected of them. Part-time workers might view their part-time job as a suitable option fitting in well with their work and non-work activities and to protect that arrangement, they would work overtime as a compromise and being aware of this, employers may also exploit part-time workers by demanding overtime (Conway and Briner 2002).


Face time or presenteeism is another reason why part-time workers might work over time. Part-time workers might worry that they are perceived to be less committed than full time workers and therefore put in extra/ long hours or over time to show their commitment (Lawrence and Corwin 2003).


As the wages of part-time employees tend to be lower than full time employees, employers may also try to maximize productivity by demanding extra hours from part-time employees and yet pay those lower wages (Euwals and Hogerbrugge 2006)


Hypothesis 1: Part-time workers will report working overtime

Job-related attitudes:

Job satisfaction:

Job satisfaction has been defined in many ways. It can be considered as an affective reaction to one's job after the individual compares the desired and the actual outcomes of the job (Cranny, Smith, Stone 1992). It can also be defined as a result from the appraisal of one's job into a pleasurable emotional state (Locke 1969). There are important reasons to be concerned about job satisfaction. The humanitarian perspective suggests that people should be treated fairly and job satisfaction is a sign of fair treatment at work. The utilitarian perspective suggests that if employees are satisfied, they behave in a certain way which is important for organizational functioning (Spector 1997).  

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