Part-time employment is yet another way of adjusting working hours - in this case to meet the needs of those who would like regular employment if they are allowed to work for less than the standard hours.1 It is widespread in times of rapidly expanding business activity when demand for labour outstrips the normal supply, but it is also popular with various groups of the population and may be offered by employers in some fields of employment independently of business conditions.
There are a number of reasons for the spread of part-time employment. Firms may offer it in order to make fuller use of plant, to increase output per worker, or to deal with shortages of semi-skilled workers. Workers choose part-time employment because they want more latitude in using their time and in coping with present-day conditions in an industrial society.
There is marked interest in part-time work, not only among women but also among the young, the elderly and the handicapped. Students may have to work in order to be able to continue their studies. Older people after retirement may wish - for financial or psychological reasons - to find a job that does not involve the strain of full-time work. The handicapped may also need to work as far as they are able. However, it is chiefly women, and especially those with family responsibilities, who are interested in working part time.
There are also circumstances in which any worker, whether a man or a woman, may at some stage need part-time employment, e.g. when obliged to turn to a new occupation because of technological change or because of commitments unrelated to his or her work.2
Another factor that has greatly contributed to the spread of part-time employment is the rapid growth of the service sector, in which there is a great deal of scope for such employment and which has absorbed a substantial number of workers from other sectors. According to Hallaire, the proportion of workers who have moved over to the tertiary sector in France, for example, is likely to represent 44.3 per cent of the active population in 1980, as compared with 28.6 per cent in 1960.1 A number of ILO committees have drawn attention to the growing scale of part-time employment in shops, offices, nursing and the civil service in their discussion of conditions of work in those sectors.2
In the retail trade, part-time employment largely depends on local conditions (supply and distribution structure, opening and closing times, peak shopping days and hours), and makes it possible to maintain proper sales service without excessive strain on the staff. In the public service and in nursing, the greater use of part-time employees in recent years is primarily due to the policy of making it easier for women to enter and re-enter employment.
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