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Part Time Employment: the Australian Experience

Staff working paper

This paper by Joanna Abhayaratna, Les Andrews, Hudan Nuch and Troy Podbury aims to provide an overview of the changing role of part-time work in Australia and was released on 12 June 2008.

The objectives of the paper are to:

  • provide a comparison of part-time work in Australia and overseas, and possible reasons for our relatively high reliance on this form of work
  • present an assessment of the changing role of part-time work in Australia
  • identify groups that are availing themselves of part-time work and industries that have higher proportions of part-time workers and how these have been changing over time.

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  • Key points
  • Contents
  • Part time work has become an important form of employment growing from 10 per cent of total employment in 1966 to 29 per cent in 2007. The prevalence of part time work has increased for both men and women and for all age groups.
  • Both supply-side and demand-side factors have driven the growth in part time employment.
    • A key supply side factor includes the entry into the workforce of people combining employment and other activities such as education and raising a family.
    • An important demand side factor is employers using part time employment to increase operational flexibility.
  • The high level of casual work among part time workers means that they have less access to many conditions of full time employment.
  • The part time workforce is a diverse group in terms of their characteristics and attitudes to work. The household circumstances of part time workers vary, as does the contribution of their labour income to the household budget - from being the only source of labour income to a negligible source.
  • Part time workers are not a static group. There is considerable movement into and out of part time work both as labour market conditions change and as workers move through their life cycle and their work/life priorities change.
  • At the aggregate level there appears little compelling evidence for a dual labour market between part time and full time work. Nonetheless, many workers find it difficult to change the number of hours that they work, suggesting that there may be some obstacles to mobility even in the current strong labour market.
  • Since the early 1990s, 20-25 per cent of female part time workers and 30-35 per cent of male part time workers have indicated a preference to work more hours. At the same time, there is evidence to suggest that two full time workers want to move to part time work for every part time worker who wants to move to full time work.
    • It is not clear what the impact on aggregate hours worked would be from any changes to working arrangements which allow a better matching of desired and actual working hours. That said, the well being of workers would be improved.
  • Preliminaries
    Cover, Copyright, Contents, Preface and Abbreviations
  • Overview
  • Chapter 1 Introduction
    1.1 A snapshot of part time employment
    1.2 Why part time employment is of policy interest
    1.3 Structure of the paper
  • Chapter 2 International comparisons of part time work
    2.1 The prevalence and growth of part time work
    2.2 Comparisons based on gender
    2.3 Comparisons based on age
    2.4 Adjusted comparisons
    2.5 Linking the present analysis and past evidence
    2.6 Summary
  • Chapter 3 The nature of changes in part time employment
    3.1 Model of year, age and cohort effects
    3.2 Decomposing the changes in part time employment
    3.3 Summary
  • Chapter 4 Demand side factors influencing part time work
    4.1 The gradual lifting of institutional constraints
    4.2 Demand side theories used to explain the level and rise in part time employment
    4.3 Summary
  • Chapter 5 Supply side factors explaining part time employment
    5.1 Supply side explanation - the time allocation model
    5.2 The experience of men and women in part time employment
    5.3 Decomposing the broad influences on part time employment
    5.4 Summary
  • Chapter 6 Factors affecting part time employment of young workers
    6.1 Women aged under 25 years
    6.2 Men aged under 25 years
    6.3 Study and part time work
    6.4 Groups not included in the labour force data
    6.5 Summary
  • Chapter 7 Factors affecting part time employment of prime age workers
    7.1 Women aged 25-54 years
    7.2 Men aged 25-54 years
    7.3 Family formation and part time work
    7.4 Summary
  • Chapter 8 Factors affecting the part time employment of older workers
    8.1 Women aged 55-64 years
    8.2 Men aged 55-64 years
    8.3 People aged 65 years and over
    8.4 Part time employment and retirement intentions among older workers
    8.5 Summary
  • Chapter 9 Non life cycle related factors affecting part time employment
    9.1 Probability of working part time for people with a disability
    9.2 Part time work and health status
    9.3 Do carers work part time?
    9.4 Summary
  • Chapter 10 Aspirational and reluctant part time workers
    10.1 Involuntary and reluctant part time workers
    10.2 Aspirational part time employment
    10.3 Summary
  • Chapter 11 Characteristics of part time jobs
    11.1 What kinds of jobs are part time?
    11.2 Work scheduling
    11.3 Geographic distribution of part time jobs
    11.4 Benefits and entitlements
    11.5 Part time work and career prospects
    11.6 Life impact and job satisfaction
    11.7 Summary
  • Chapter 12 Income and wages
    12.1 Part time pay
    12.2 Do part time workers live in low income households?
    12.3 The contribution of part time work to the household budget
    12.4 Summary
  • Chapter 13 Summary and areas for further research
  • Appendix A International comparisons
  • Appendix B Changes to part time employment
  • Appendix C Demand side factors
  • Appendix D Supply side factors
  • Appendix E Aspirational and reluctant part time work
  • Appendix F Part time jobs characteristics
  • References

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