Working part-time: achieving a successful ‘work-life’ balance?

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

March 1, 2004


The role of part-time employment in the balancing of women’s employment and family lives has generated an immense literature. Using data on women working part-time and full-time in different level occupations in the British Household Panel Survey, this paper argues that it is now vital to move these balancing debates on from their location within work-family rhetoric and to re-position the study of women’s working time in broader work-life discussions. Work-family debates tend to neglect a number of key domains that women balance in their lives, in addition to family and employment, including their financial security and their leisure. The paper shows that examining the financial situations and the leisure lives of female part-timers in lower level jobs reveals a less positive picture of their ‘life balancing’ than is portrayed in much work-family literature. Instead, they emerged as the least financially secure employees and, linked to this, less satisfied with their social lives too. It is concluded that since the work-life system is multi - and not just two-dimensional, it is important to examine how all life domains interrelate with each other. In this way, we would be in a better position to begin to assess all the benefits and disadvantages associated with working part-time and with other work-life balancing strategies.

Published in

British Journal of Sociology


Volume: 55 (1):99-122



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