International Human Resource Management - Essay
Is part-time work the key to happier families? Empirical findings on job-satisfaction and personal happiness of part-time workers.
Over the last decades, there has been a large increase of women in jobs and hence an increase in dual earner households. 1) Consequently, a significantly higher amount of stress and pressure on men and women has been observed as it is difficult to combine the duties at work and at home which can reduce the overall quality of life and threat the work-life balance. For many people part-time work can be a solution to this problem especially in industrial nations.
By definition, an employee works part-time if he regularly works fewer hours than a comparable full-time employee. The number of hours varies from state to state and institution to institution. However, there has been an increase in part-time work also in traditionally full-time professions.1) In Europe about 32% of all women and 8% of men work part-time, though this rate is lowest in eastern countries and highest in northern and western countries. In the USA about 23% of employees work part-time.19)
But does part-time employment really increase the personal and work satisfaction? Why is the satisfaction higher or lower and what are benefits and disadvantages of part-time work? Moreover, what determines the satisfaction in part-time arrangements apart from influences of work and personal life?
These three questions will be discussed in this essay based on empirical findings and hence it will not only be discussed whether there is a higher satisfaction but also its reasons and surroundings. Therefore, the essay is divided in four parts: work satisfaction, personal satisfaction, aspects of the overall satisfaction and determinants.
Often part-time work goes along with other work characteristics like working from home, flexi time, job sharing etc. But in this essay only part-time work it-self or in other words the reduced number of working hours and its effects on satisfaction will be regarded. Please note that concrete numbers or percentages are often not given as the researchers usually use their own scales. Nevertheless, all facts given are empirical findings.
Moreover, there is a general division in two types of part-time work (Tilly, 1991; Kahne, 1985): the so called secondary part-time jobs and retention part-time jobs. The latter type is defined as part-time jobs given to high performers, talents or in general to employees which are valuable to the company and must be retained. Other part-time arrangements belong to secondary part-time jobs1). Nevertheless, these two types share almost the same advantages and disadvantages. This is why the following findings are valid for both types:
To begin with, a greater personal satisfaction has been observed in several studies1), 6), 17) for voluntary part-time work. Therefore, the personal satisfaction in involuntary part-time arrangements is even lower than in involuntary full-time arrangements1). As there are not many studies on involuntary part-time work the following facts refer to the voluntary type compared to full-time work.
There is a higher happiness at home and a higher children satisfaction in part-time arrangements1) which is an important aspect as the biggest motivational reason for the decision to work part-time is that the family has the highest priority for the concerned employees. The finding can be explained by the reduced number of working hours giving the employees more time to spend with their children, their family and at home. About half of the interviewed part-time employees report to spend much more time with their children.16)
23% of them even see this working model as a “personal fulfillment”.16) So, the divided dedication to work and to personal life is probably a self-realization for them which is the highest human need in the pyramid of Maslow and explains the higher personal satisfaction very well.
It also indicates that the rate of personal satisfaction is highly connected to individual demands and characteristics. Working time models and part-time work might not hold personal satisfaction in themselves; they are rather a way to obtain it for specific people. There are probably people who are more satisfied with full-time employment. So the personal satisfaction in any working model and in part-time work is determined by individual demands, like the family as a priority, and characteristics – it must fit to person. This thesis is not proven yet but several researchers argue that based on the results of their studies.1)
This can be supported by the following observations: it seems that there is not necessarily less work to do for a person working part-time but the tasks, duties and the ratio between work at home or in the company are different than in a full-time arrangement.
As a result, only 36% of the respondents are in a better mood, 24% of them are less hectic and 23% of them have more time for planning in general, though the required time for personal and family time management decreases. So, part-time arrangements improve these aspects sometimes but not in the majority of cases. Moreover, 27% of the interviewed people have problems to find a part-time childcare and 22% of them report an increase of work in the household. As a consequence, there are no significant differences of the role overload, stress levels and the mood between part-time and full-time employees in their private life.16) Additionally, there are no differences in the partner or marriage satisfaction.1) Despite all that, the overall personal satisfaction and happiness at home are higher than in full-time arrangements probably because the new ratio of private and professional tasks fits to the individual demands and characteristics of the part-time employees.
All in all, there is also a lower rate of depression in part-time arrangements.18)
Next, a greater satisfaction at work can be observed in several studies1)6)17) and again this is only valid for voluntary part-time work. Moreover, the great majority of part-time employees prefer their current status1). Again, there seem to be more disadvantages than benefits although the overall satisfaction at work is higher which will be presented in the following:
Firstly, in most countries part-time employees have a lower income per hour than full-time employees in comparable positions and not only for the time of the part-time arrangement. Also afterwards and also in so called retention part-time arrangements the employees usually earn less.1)
Secondly, there is higher job insecurity especially in countries with few regulations on dismissal protections1): the part-time employees are often the first to be dismissed during periods of weak economy and there is always the risk of replacement by other employees willing to work full-time. This happens especially in male-dominated professions where there is less understanding for such arrangements1). By contrast, this is different in the case of retention part-time work as these employees are precious to the company and cannot easily be replaced.
Thirdly, one of the biggest disadvantages of part-time work is the exclusion from the organization, interpersonal aspects and trainings although the feeling of exclusion is lower the more responsibilities the part-timer employee has1). This may be explained by higher attention of the colleges and the greater importance of the person in the latter case.
Concerning the organization, part-time workers feel more peripheral than central probably since they spend less time at work but also due to their colleges1). Often colleges see the part-time employees as less committed to the company and as less motivated causing an inequality dividing the workforce1). This is why many part-time employees think their work is undervalued. The interpersonal disadvantages – only 26% of part-time employees enjoy social aspects at work16) - are not only caused by the reduced number of hours spent at work but also by potential personal rejections of this working model and possible jealousy as not everyone can afford to work part-time1). Moreover, part-time employees receive less training opportunities probably as these expensive trainings are more lucrative for the employer on full-time employees who will use the gained knowledge or skills more frequently in the company. This is also the case for retention part-time.