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Dual Tracks Part-time Work in Li

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					PART-TIME WORK FOR BRITISH WOMEN: DEAD-END OR CAREER INTERLUDE?
Part-time work can be both a support and a trap for women’s future careers. According to new research by Sara Connolly and Mary Gregory, it serves two different functions depending on whether a woman is a persistent worker or a persistent non-worker. Women whose past history predominantly involves full-time work, possibly in conjunction with spells of part-time work or non-employment, revert to full-time work. But those whose labour market history combines spells in part-time work with nonemployment are unlikely subsequently to take up full-time work. Close to six million women – 45% of those in employment in the UK – are now working part-time. The great majority of women will intersperse one or more spells of part-time work with periods of full-time work, many also with time out of the labour market. Part-time work is frequently the route that women choose in order to combine continuing labour market involvement with household responsibilities particularly during the childcare years. But it is also widely documented that many part-time jobs are ‘bad’ jobs in low-wage occupations offering little opportunity for career progression. This leads to the perspective of part-time work as a dead-end or trap to women’s careers. While these views are not wholly inconsistent, their differing levels of endorsement of the social contribution of part-time work make it important to establish the role that parttime work plays in women’s life-cycle labour market involvement. How far does it support the continuation of labour market participation and a future career? How far is it a dead-end for women’s careers? The principal finding of this research is that part-time work serves two different functions. Women tend to be persistent workers or persistent non-workers. Those whose past history predominantly involves full-time work, possibly in conjunction with spells of part-time work or non-employment, revert to full-time work. Those whose labour market history combines spells in part-time work with non-employment are unlikely subsequently to take up full-time work. Both categories of women engage in part-time work but in different ways. Part-time work is both a support and a trap for women’s future careers, but these alternative roles apply to different groups. This paper presents an analysis of the role of part-time work over an extended portion of the lifecycle for a cohort of women in Britain. The researchers follow the patterns of labour market participation of 3,500 women who were born in 1958 from the age at which they left full-time education until they are aged 42 in 2000. This time-span covers half of their employment lifecycle, almost the entirety of their childbearing years and a substantial portion of the period when childcare responsibilities are greatest. The initial focus is on the likelihood of being in full-time employment, part-time employment or not working. They then consider the length of time that women spend in part-time employment and which of the other states they switch into when they exit.

The study finds that individual characteristics do matter in determining employment status:     Motherhood and having pre-school children, is strongly conducive to part-time employment and non-employment rather than full-time employment. Higher educational attainment lowers the choice of both part-time and nonemployment. Having a baby in the previous year tends to route women either back to full-time work (after maternity leave) or into non-employment. Having a larger number of children, on the other hand, is associated with longer spells in part-time work.

But, the role of employment history is much stronger. An employment history of full-time employment combined with even a substantial amount of part-time work makes subsequent part-time or non-employment less likely. This gives clear support to the concept of the maintenance role of part-time work, serving as an interlude in a career basically oriented towards full-time work. Conversely, career histories comprising part-time work and non-employment are strongly associated with further part-time work and non-employment, supporting the concept of part-time work as part of a profile of persistently weak labour market attachment. When women are in part-time employment, the study finds that the most striking result relates to the employment state prior to the part-time spell. Where this was nonemployment, exit to full-time employment is less likely and exit back to non-employment more likely – the part-time/non-employment cycle. ENDS Notes for editors: ‘Dual Tracks: Part-time Work in Life-Cycle Employment for British Women’ by Sara Connolly and Mary Gregory was presented at the Royal Economic Society’s 2007 annual conference at the University of Warwick, 11-13 April. Sara Connolly is at the School of Economics, University of East Anglia. Mary Gregory is at the Department of Economics, University of Oxford. For further information: contact Sara Connolly on +44 1603 593410 (email: sara.connolly@uea.ac.uk); Mary Gregory on +44 1865 271 951 (email: mary.gregory@economics.oxford.ac.uk); or Romesh Vaitilingam on 07768-661095 (email: romesh@compuserve.com).