CULTURE OR STRUCTURE AS EXPLANATIONS FOR DIFFERENCES IN PART-TIME WORK IN GERMANY, FINLAND AND THE NETHERLANDS?
Despite the universal increase in female employment, particularly among married women with children, what accounts for the differentiated growth of part-time work across countries? Explanations usually focus on the differential effect of welfare state policies to facilitate full-time female employment, or on the strategies of employers to divide and segment the labour market, by offering secondary sector marginalised part-time jobs to women. However, these arguments are often based on the assumption that women want full-time work; part-time work is a second best solution which mothers only choose in the context of institutional constraints. There is no doubt that the institutional framework created by the labour market and the state is of substantial importance for the employment behaviour of women. Nevertheless, explanations which stress these institutional factors can become too one-sided. This results in a neglect of the way that women’s social practices also reflect deep-rooted differences in cultural ideals, norms and values concerning childhood and the gendered division of labour within the family. The dimension of ‘culture’ is important in explanations of cross-national differences but it has usually been excluded or only marginally integrated in theoretical explanations. Instead, culture is often treated as the residual explanatory variable (Duncan 1993; PfauEffinger 1993; O’Reilly 1996).1