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How, and to what extent, are patterns of part time working influenced by a country's welfare state system? Discuss with reference to at least two countries.

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Introduction

How, and to what extent, are patterns of part time working influenced by a country's welfare state system? Discuss with reference to at least two countries. Introduction Since the 1970's, and particularly in the 1980's, there has been a rapid expansion of part time employment in all OECD countries. Universal trends in part time work can be seen across countries: it is often associated with marginal employment; its expansion has coincided with a period of industrial restructuring and a growing presence of women in the labour market. In 1994, women accounted for 70 per cent of part timers in twelve of the fifteen EU states. Therefore, the gender dimension is a key concept for understanding part time work (Smith, Fagan and Rubery, 1998). There are many areas of this phenomenon that can be researched, such as why is it so bound by gender, what different types of part timers there are and what conditions will cause it to change. One area of research is how an economy's welfare state affects part time working and the degree to which they affect part time working patterns. How influential are the other factors that alter labour patterns in an economy? By looking at the effects of welfare state on patterns of part time working, both in theory and at practice in the UK and the Netherlands, and then considering arguments against, the conclusion that welfare state policies greatly affect part time working is reached. The Influence of Welfare State System Esping-Andersen seems to support the view that welfare state policies play a very large influence. They state that today, firm's are- at least in many countries- unable to rationalise and shed labour without recourse to the welfare state, whether through early retirement, unemployment or active manpower policies. ...read more.

Middle

There are also financial incentives for employers to use part time labour to reduce wage costs, such as lower social security contributions or minimum wage exceptions. Therefore, two or three part-timers may be cheaper than one full-time employee doing the same amount of work (Fagan and Rubery, 1996) The tax and benefit system has an impact on the decision to work part-time for two main reasons, which Doudejins (1998) says have received little attention in the literature. First, there is little financial incentive for someone with an unemployed partner to work part-time. The partner of an employed person can realise increases in net household income over nearly the whole range of earnings from part-time work, whereas the partner of an unemployed person can increase net household income only if their part-time earnings exceeds about 70 per cent of the full-time average earnings level. Part time often does not pay more than the benefit level once income tax, social security contributions and work-related costs are taken into account. The disincentive to take a part time job increases drastically when the initial unemployment benefit is exhausted and the household has to rely upon assistance type benefits. The second influence of the tax and benefit system is that part time workers can be "trapped" in their job for three reasons. First, employers are exempted in some countries from paying social security contributions for employees on low wages or in part time jobs with few hours worked. This creates a strong incentive for employers to offer part time jobs with only a small number of hours. Second, in some countries benefit entitlements end when the recipients spends more than two or three days in paid employment. Moreover, high clawback rates cause so-called "poverty traps" that beneficiaries can only exist at high earnings levels. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the Netherlands, a social democrat welfare state and a fairly unified feminist movement, integrated into the decision making process of the welfare state, promoted new patterns of employment orientation in favour of part time work in the phases of active motherhood. In West Germany a more corporatist-conservative welfare regime and a divided protest feminist movement has not integrated itself into welfare state institutions, with the consequences that part time is less well developed and less well protected (adapted from Pfau-Effinger, 1998). However, what is not considered in Pfau-Effinger's argument is that culture is not an easily measured variable. It is a very subjective topic and sufficient detail on the methodology is not provided. It cannot be used as a basis for comparison as easily as policies or trends in working. Conclusion In conclusion, it seems we have found that the complex nature of part time employment cannot be attributed to a single factor. Part time working is a complex topic; such a phenomenon is likely to result from a variety of factors, which will include legal, social and economic factors. A number of factors influence the work practices and flexibility strategies developed, including labour regulations, government and trade union working time policies and conditions vary across the countries, influencing the extent and quality of part time work which has been developed. However, it seems fair to say that the welfare policies if a state are greatly likely to influence these, hence perhaps not entirely, but to a large extent part time working is affected by welfare policies. The debate on factors affecting part time working is likely to continue, and further research required to draw conclusions. The culture dimension may provide a strong argument and valid explanations, yet more conclusive, detailed research is required. 1 ...read more.

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