Part-time work has increased substantially across Europe in the last decade with the UK having one of the highest ratios of part-time to full-time workers, according to new research.
The report by Eurofound says part-time workers now account for over 18% of the workforce, compared to nearly 16% in 1999. Just over 26% of UK workers are now part time. The only countries in Europe which have more part-timers are Belgium and the Netherlands. In the Netherlands 48.3% of workers work part time.
The report finds that part-time work is spread very unevenly across European Union member states, reflecting differences in legislation, infrastructure and cultural conventions.It says on the plus side part-time working increases the number of women in the labour force, allows employers to adjust their resources to cyclical conditions over the course of a time period using part-time workers and encourages employees’ work life balance.
However, on the negative side, it may increase overall labour costs for businesses due to the presence of fixed costs, means employees have lower earnings on average and fewer possibilities for progressing in their career.
The report found that the number of people working part time has increased in the last two decades for both men and women at a similar rate. However, the part-time rate for women (32%) is four times the part-time rate for men (8%).
While male part-time is most common in the youngest and the oldest age groups, the female part time rate increased with age, which the report says reflects gender inequalities in transitions from part time to full time.
The report also found large differences in both the proportion of part-timers and the organisation of part-time work across European countries due to various factors, including a lack of demand or even opposition to involuntary part-time by workers, lack of regulation, a shortage of good quality part-time jobs and undeclared part-time work. Women also mentioned lack of access to affordable childcare as a potential barrier.
Part-time workers’ working conditions were found to be different from that of full-time workers. The main differences includnig the fact that those working shorter hours are less likely to perform complex tasks, part-time workers were less optimistic about their prospects for promotion, part-time workers were less likely to receive training and to learn new things at work and full-time workers were more likely to find their job intellectually demanding than part-time workers.