Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

Full- and Part-Time Work: Gender and Welfare-Type Differences in European Working Conditions, Job Satisfaction, Health Status, and Psychosocial Issues

Academic journal article Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health

Full- and Part-Time Work: Gender and Welfare-Type Differences in European Working Conditions, Job Satisfaction, Health Status, and Psychosocial Issues

Article excerpt

The increase in the frequency of part-time employment (PTE) has been related to two main causes: first, the massive incorporation of women into the labor market to facilitate family life, and second, the increasing demand for a more flexible work force since the 1980s, in the context of high mobility financial flows, industrial relocation, and international competition tied to the business cycle (1). PTE has been growing steadily more common since then, reaching 18.9% of the employed population in the the 27 member states of the European Union (EU-27) in the fourth quarter of 2011, with significant differences between sexes (31.7% among women and 8.1% among men) (2). The reasons for working part-time are likely to differ markedly between genders, with men generally doing so because they are in training and women due to family obligations. These gender distinctions in the motivation for being in PTE may be the result of differences in working patterns between genders, which may in turn result in differences in working conditions and the association between employment and health status (3).

The frequency of PTE also differs markedly between countries, from 48.8% in the Netherlands (25.4% men, 76.7% women), to a moderate 13.7% in Spain (6.0% men, 23.5% women) and minimal 2.1% in Bulgaria (2.2% men, 2.6% women) (2). It has been suggested that a country's welfare state regime shapes the gender division in family caregiver and breadwinner roles, as well as the type of family-friendly policies that determine to a great extent the influence of the work-family combination on health and well-being (4, 5). PTE-associated working conditions may differ between national welfare state regimes, which may modulate the impact of PTE on health.

Despite the empirical relevance of gender and welfare differences in PTE, most studies have focused on the effects of different forms of job flexibility on health status (6), and employment conditions such as differences in wages and promotion opportunities between PTE and full-time employment (FTE) (7-9), but without fully exploring these differences in psychosocial working conditions as a function of gender and welfare regime. Previous literature dealing with PTE found contradictory results. In their review on precarious employment, Quinlan et al (10) did not observe a clear association between poor health and job insecurity involving PTE. In a study based on the working population in Europe, Benavides et al (11) reported a link between type of work contract and psychosocial problems and physical health, and concluded that people with PTE experience less work-related stress but have poorer job satisfaction than those in FTE, although these authors did not consider gender differences. In their systematic review, Joyce et al (12) found one study where having an involuntary part-time contract was associated with depression (13). More recently, studies by Rodriguez (14) and Bardasi (15) on atypical employment generally found no association between PTE and health, quality of life outcomes and job satisfaction, although they did notice some gender differences.

The objectives of this study were to analyze the differences between PTE and FTE in terms of working conditions, on the one hand, and job satisfaction, health status, and work-related psychosocial problems according to gender and welfare state regime, on the other hand, and to analyze the role of working conditions in the association between PTE and FTE.

Methods

Data were obtained from the 4th European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) carried out in 2005 (16). This survey was representative of the employed population and conducted using a multistage, stratified and clustered design with a "random walk" procedure. Ineligible cases (35.4%) included vacant housing units, housing units with no workers, and those that were not residences. The refusal rate among eligible units was 24% and contact was not made with 9.4% of eligible units. …

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