chapter  2
22 Pages


WithMark Smith, Colette Fagan, Jill Rubery

Since the 1970s, and particularly in the 1980s, there has been a rapid expansion of part-time employment in almost all OECD countries. Initially the growth of part-time jobs in many Northern European countries occurred as a means of encouraging married women to take jobs in the expanding service sector in a period of labour shortages. This development was premised upon such women being second income earners within a ‘male breadwinner’ model of family life, in which women combine employment with their primary responsibility for unpaid domestic labour in the household (Beechey and Perkins 1987; Marshall 1989; Maier 1994). More recently, part-time work has been suggested as a method of reducing mass unemployment across Europe and increasing the overall employment rate (CEC 1993; Delsen 1993). However, the evidence suggests that part-time employment serves mainly to increase the overall size of the labour force rather than reduce measured unemployment (Rubery et al. 1997a; Walwei 1995, and Chapter 5, this volume). Such policy prescriptions to tackle unemployment neglect the gendered nature of part-time employment (Meulders 1995). The only people who can usually work for a part-time wage are those with recourse to other income sources, for example, from a partner or other household member employed full-time, or other financial transfers such as a student grant or pension. Part-time work is therefore not a viable option for many of the unemployed within the existing structure of social protection systems in most countries (see Doudeijns, Chapter 6, this volume).