Part-time work booms across Europe

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.

Definition of 'part-time' in dictionary


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.

Increase in part time workers

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.

Working conditions for part time jobs

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.

Most popular sector for part time working

Across European companies, part-time was most common in education, health and social work, all of which are female-dominated sectors. Generally, says the report, a higher proportion of female workers result in a higher incidence of part-time in many companies.
The report notes some trends in part-time work. It says that although part-time work is most often carried out through some fixed hours every day, other forms of part-time work are becoming more common, increasing the range of possibilities for employers and employees.
In some companies, part-time work has become more common among those working in professional or management positions that need high qualifications, it states, though it adds that this is still rare. Three quarters of companies have no part-time workers in such positions.
The report recommends that policymakers “should aim to reduce the identified differences in working conditions between part-time workers and full-time workers”, particularly access to training. It also suggests that new forms of part-time work should be encouraged and good practice on flexible working exchanged between organisations, especially with regard to part-timers working in management positions.
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