June 1, 2000
Why, given all the problems associated with part-time employment in Britain, do women work part-time at all? Does the answer to this question lie in gender-based explanations which focus on women's caring responsibilities? This paper addresses these issues by focusing on the relative experiences of the largest group of part-timers, women working in low status occupations. It is concluded that a gender-informed analysis of women's part-time employment is clearly vital, but an awareness of further dimensions of social inequality is required if we are to understand diversity amongst part-timers. Relative to full-timers, part-timers are similar in their life-cycle positions, their marital status and motherhood status. However, incorporating a class analysis shows that part-timers in lower status jobs stand apart in that they are disproportionately likely to have been brought up in working class households and, as adults, they are more likely to be living in very low waged households with partners who are also in low paid manual occupations. It is concluded that women go into the lowest status part-time jobs in specific social contexts and, as a result, we cannot lump together into one unified group, women working part-time in manual and higher status occupations, and then talk sensibly about part-time work and its impact on women. It is essential to examine the interaction of gender and class inequalities to better understand these women's working lives.
Sociological Research Online
Volume: 4 (4)
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