Quality Of Part-Time Work In Europe: Part Better Or Part Worse Than Full Time?

Publication type

Conference Paper


Monday Afternoon Seminar Series


Publication date

February 20, 2006


Understanding the nature of part-time work is central to understanding current European labour markets, and planning for the labour markets we want in the future. Part-time work is particularly fascinating for a number of reasons that will hopefully become apparent in this paper.

There is no universally agreed stance on part-time work. Some, perhaps coming from a traditional trade-union background, see part-time work as a form of non-standard work which is a threat to standard employment rights. Other feminist researchers view part-time work as a ghetto which diverts women from competing with male employees and maintains their lower status in the labour market.

By contrast, some groups have traditionally been strongly supportive of part-time work. Some groups with 'conservative' or 'traditional' views on gendered roles for men and women see part-time jobs (but not full-time jobs) as acceptable for women with child-care responsibilities. Recent concerns to increase work-life balance of families tend to see part-time jobs as having an important role that permits women to maintain their career whilst combining employment with domestic work. And as the male-breadwinner model declines, part-time employment at both ends of the employment spectrum has become an increasingly important feature for students and for older workers making the transition to retirement. And EU, for instance through the Lisbon summit, tends to see part-time work as an important tool in increasing women's participation in the labour market (Kok, 2003).

Rather than starting from a ideological position, this paper takes a pragmatic and empirical approach to assess the quality of part-time and full time employment using existing European datasets.

But, first, the paper will examine the various definitions of part-time research employed by researchers, and then look at the prevalence of part-time work in the old EU countries.



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