Part-time Paradox: Connecting Gender, Work and Family

Duffy, Ann; Pupo, Norene
Publisher:  McClelland & Stewart Inc.
Year Published:  1992  
Pages:  318pp   ISBN:  0-7710-2900-4
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX7288

Tthe authors discuss whether the over-representation of women in part-time labour is exploitive or liberating. They present interviews and original research to describe the ways in which alternative work forms simultaneously challenge and reinforce traditional gender roles.


Abstract:  Duffy and Pupo use Canadian labour market trends to describe the complex intersection of gender, work and family. Using a variety of theoretical models, the authors discuss whether the over-representation of women in part-time labour is exploitive or liberating. They present interviews and original research to describe the ways in which alternative work forms simultaneously challenge and reinforce traditional gender roles. They conclude that part-time employment is a viable method of balancing domestic duties, but that it continues to reduce women's likelihood of achieving economic independence.

Part-timers often balance more than one job and are rarely offered the same job security or benefits as full-time employees. Workers often find themselves exploited: earning less than half a full-time wage but working more than half the hours. Employers hire strategically, with the understanding that unions are reluctant to include part-timers in bargaining agreements. Part-time work is most common in care-giving, finance, retail trade and service sectors, which are disproportionally staffed by women.

Women tend to at least partially withdraw from the labour force during their 20s to 30s, an important period of career development. They can experience difficulties re-entering the workforce and lose opportunities for advancement. As familial responsibilities are increasingly privatized, women's roles as primary care-givers mean that they must either reduce their hours or face a "double work day."

On the other hand, Duffy and Pupo discover that part-time work provides women with financial security and improves both self-esteem and marital satisfaction. While full-time domestic care can be isolating, part-time work enables women to form a sense of 'self' outside of their roles as mothers and wives.

Despite this personal satisfaction, an overall lack of labour force participation reinforces existing notions of traditional gender roles and women's inability or unwillingness to commit to full-time work.

Duffy and Pupo also examine the history of collective agreements, women's formal labour force participation and pose questions about whether current labour policy has adapted to a changing workforce. It seems likely that these demographics will continue to diversify and the authors offer a number of suggestions for future labour policy.

[abstract by Heather Skelton]

Subject Headings