Half A Job

Half A Job: Bad and Good Part-Time Jobs in a Changing Labor Market

Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Half A Job
    Book Description:

    Over 20 million people are working part-time in the United States, more than six million of them involuntarily. BothTimeandFortunemagazines have run recent cover stories about this constrained faction of the workforce, who tend to earn on average 40 percent less than full-time workers. Addressing this disturbing trend, Chris Tilly presents a current, in-depth analysis of how U.S. businesses use part-time employment, and why they are using it more and more.

    Worker demand for part-time jobs peaked more than twenty years ago, but employers' desires for cheap labor and schedule flexibility have continued to drive the long-term growth of part-time jobs. Tilly argues that this growth is a reaction to the expanding trade and service industries, which, by their nature, depend on part-time workers. Examining the nature and purposes of the different types of part-time employment, he explores the roots of part-time jobs in the organization of work, and the inadequacies of existing public policies on part-time employment.

    Using not only statistical analysis but over eighty interviews with employers in the retail and insurance industries, Tilly suggests new approaches to providing flexibility without insecurity.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0397-1
    Subjects: Business, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. 1 Half a Job Is Not Enough
    (pp. 1-12)

    AMERICA IS WORRIED ABOUT THE GROWTH OF PART-TIME and temporary employment.Timemagazine, in a 1993 cover story, bemoaned “The Temping of America” (Castro 1993). A 1994Fortunecover story trumpeted “The Contingency Work Force” (Fierman 1994). The new prominence of part-time and temporary jobs brings with it fears of widening instability and insecurity in the workforce. “If there was a national fear index,” Richard Belous, chief economist for the National Planning Association, toldTime’sreporter, “it would be directly related to the growth of contingent work” (quoted in Castro 1993,44).

    But how much do we actually know about these...

  6. 2 Why Has Part-Time Employment Continued to Grow?
    (pp. 13-33)

    PART-TIME EMPLOYMENT IS BIG AND GETTING BIGGER. Almost 21 million people, or 19 percent, of the U.S. nonagricultural workforce worked part-time in 1993. A full 83 percent of these part-timers reported that they usually worked part-time. Close to one-third of the part-time workers—over 6 million people—were involuntary part-time workers who would have preferred a full-time job.¹ These figures represent averages over 12 months; about twice as many people had worked part-time at some time during the year (Terry 1981).

    Since the 1950s, the proportion of part-timers in the workforce has grown gradually, climbing from 13 percent in 1957...

  7. 3 Two Theoretical Frameworks
    (pp. 34-46)

    BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. ECONOMIST Paul Samuelson put on his neoclassically tinted glasses and looked out on the United States’s market economy. He saw a well-oiled machine—rational, symmetrical, and supremely indifferent. Do employers exercise excessive power over their workers? No, scoffed Samuelson (1957), for “in a perfectly competitive market, it really doesn’t matter who hires whom: so have labor hire ‘capital’” (p. 894). Samuelson (1983) did acknowledge in passing that “often the economist takes as data certain traditionally noneconomic variables such as technology, tastes, social and institutional conditions, etc.; although to the students of other...

  8. 4 Good and Bad Part-Time Jobs
    (pp. 47-69)

    LET’S START WITH A SIMPLE QUESTION: DO PART-TIME employees tend to be in high-skill or low-skill jobs? Two managers respond:

    It [a part-time job] would have to be a routine job that we can break up . . . . We don’t want people at higher grades to be part-time [because] for these higher grades, there’s quite a bit of training. [personnel director at an insurance company] You’re going to find our more-skilled, higher level people in this [part-time status]. Our senior analysts and above as opposed to just the programmer who’s just producing code where the skill level is...

  9. 5 Implications of the Distinction Between Good and Bad Part-Time Jobs
    (pp. 70-90)

    TYPOLOGIES SUCH AS THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN SECONDARY and retention, or bad “and” “good,” part-time jobs classify the world, sorting messy events into neat boxes. A new typology generally offers a fresh look at something we had previously thought we had known. But that classification scheme’s value is greater if it not only describes but also explains. The secondary/retention dichotomy can indeed help to explain a number of the systematic features of part-time employment.

    This chapter addresses two such features. When managers speak of the advantages and disadvantages of part-time work, they sometimes appear to contradict each other flatly, citing utterly...

  10. 6 How Businesses Set the Level of Part-Time Employment
    (pp. 91-120)

    PART-TIME EMPLOYMENT SPREADS QUITE UNEVENLY across industries and occupations. By major industry, the rate of part-time employment ranged from a negligible 4 percent in mining and durable manufacturing to a hefty 30 percent in trade in 1993 (Table 6.1). Major occupational groups vary even more dramatically—from 7 percent of managers to an overwhelming 61 percent of private household employees (Table 6.2). Surveys of firms indicate that the variance within industries is also large (Nollen and Martin 1978).

    Clearly, this variation reflects differences in how managers perceive the advantages and disadvantages of part-time employment across industries, occupations, and companies, as...

  11. 7 Cycles and Trends
    (pp. 121-157)

    THE RATE OF PART-TIME EMPLOYMENT RIDES A ROLLER coaster: it rises and falls with the unemployment rate, but after each recession over the last quarter-century, it has remained a little higher (Figure 7.1). It is involuntary part-time employment that propels the ups and downs, and recently the upward drift as well. In Chapter 2, we saw the beginning of an explanation for the long-term increase: the growth of industries that use part-time employment heavily and a strategic shift within industries toward wider use of part-time schedules. Later in this chapter, I shall complete this story of the long-term part-time expansion....

  12. 8 The Case for New Policies
    (pp. 158-188)

    IN APRIL 1994, SEVENTY THOUSAND TEAMSTERS WENT ON strike against Trucking Management, Inc. The key issue—part-time work. “They want to shift to part-time workers with low wages and little or no benefits,” declared Teamster President Ron Carey, who had led reformers to win the union’s top leadership posts three years earlier. “This is wrong for workers and their families, and it is wrong for America.” But Arthur H. Bunte, Trucking Management’s president, fired back, “They would rather risk the livelihood of their members than negotiate a settlement that would have provided increased wages . . . and the job...

  13. APPENDIX: A Formal Model of the Cyclical Adjustment of Part-Time Employment in Noncyclical Industries
    (pp. 189-198)
  14. NOTES
    (pp. 199-206)
    (pp. 207-216)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 217-228)