Part-time jobs, enabling women’s ‘double-shift’?

Gender inequality.

Women earn on average 16% less than men in the EU. [(Alex/Flickr)]

This article is part of our special report Women’s day special.

SPECIAL REPORT / Many women in the EU who try to juggle both work and family life choose a part-time job. But these positions can have a negative impact on their health and widen the pay gap between men and women. 

At EU level, the female employment rate stood at 62.6% in 2013 and almost a third (31.8%) of them were working part-time, according to new data published on Thursday (5 March) by Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office. 

At the same time, the employment rate for men was 74.2%, but less than 10% of them (8.1%) were in part-time employment. 

Eurostat also highlighted that the gender pay gap in 2013 stood at 16.4% in the EU, ranging from less than 5% in Slovenia to more than 20% in Estonia, Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany. 

Liliana Cunha from Porto University has carried out a survey among female bus drivers in Portugal. She said female bus drivers often worked part-time and were rarely found in senior positions at bus companies.

These two components meant that the women often got the least favourable timetables which made it more difficult for them to organise their life. They would know late in advance whether they would have to show up for work in the morning or in the evening as well as which bus line they would have. 

“Many women highlighted that it was impossible to reconcile the timetables with their family life and this is a factor which up until now has been mostly neglected. Dialogue between men and women brings an added value. It has highlighted the need to adjust time tables for the better for all,” Cunha said. She was speaking at a conference on Women’s Health and Work organised by the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) in Brussels on Thursday (5 March).

Dominique Cau-Bareille from Lyon University said that while 24% of secondary-school teachers in France work part-time, 90% of them are women. She said these women often had other part-time jobs and were therefore looking for part-time teaching jobs.

But having a part-time job at a school can be problematic. Often the part-time school teachers would need to do a lot of extra hours of training due to increasing demands for a higher level of teaching from the Ministry of Education, while cuts in the budgets would mean that they would have to take on this additional workload unpaid.  

>> Read: Gender determines health problems in the workplace

“Many of these women realise, especially after they have children, that they cannot commit to these kinds of activities of extra work. Therefore, tensions between them and the headmaster often increase. The women become tired and ill and it affects their teaching. There will also be tensions with colleagues who have to take on more of the work which the part-time worker cannot do,” Cau-Bareille said.

No part-time for Eastern Europeans

Siyka Kovacheva from the University of Plovdiv noted that there are still big differences when it comes to women’s working conditions between Western and Eastern Europe. While part-time jobs almost don’t exist in any sector, the women are also expected to take care of the children and it’s not unusual that the children live with their parents long into their 30s.

Št?pánka Lehmann from the Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs in the Czech Republic mentioned that women are often less flexible than men when it comes to their working time and that they often work the same number of hours every day and the same number of days every week. Women often have a lower chance of determine their working schedule, but there are considerable differences across Europe, with the most significant difference in Central and Eastern Europe. Here, men are considerably more flexible than women even though men also in these countries have less influence over their working hours. 

“In Central and Eastern Europe, and to some extent in Mediterranean countries, women usually can’t choose in any way their working schedules which are exclusively set by their companies. On the other hand, if we look at Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark and Norway, the possibility to choose working hours is much better,” Lehrmann said.

As a consequence, women in Central and Eastern European countries, more than elsewhere in Europe, said their work had a negative effect on their health, the researcher noted.

Gender equality in employment was included in the Treaty of Rome singed in 1957. The first piece of secondary EU legislation in the field was the Equal Pay Directive of 1975, which prohibited discrimination on grounds of gender to all aspects of remuneration.

In November 2012, the Commission proposed a directive on gender balance on company boards, setting a 40% quota of women on non-executive directors. The text is stuck in the Council.

  • 8 March: International Women's Day

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