University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

To Choose or Not to Choose: Men and Part-Time Work

Palmer, Gerry (2014) To Choose or Not to Choose: Men and Part-Time Work. In: 32nd International Labour Process Conference, 7-9th April 2014, Kings College London. (Unpublished)

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Part-time employment is a contested subject in the academic literature. One of the key disputes concerns the reasons for participating in part-time employment and the degree of choice workers have in ‘opting’ for part-time employment. On the one hand, commentators emphasise the role of structural factors and social expectations associated with family care in constraining choices (McRae 2003) but, set against this is a view that part-time work represents a meaningful choice for employees and represents their preferences (Hakim (2004) .

The evidential base for these discussions is based on the experience of women workers. While there are reasons for this focus, primarily the preponderance of part-time employees who are female, the experiences of male part-time workers, who represent a small but growing percentage of the part-time labour force, have been largely ignored in the academic literature.

The aim of this paper is to extend this debate by exploring the ‘choices’ male employees make when taking part-time work. Specifically, the paper considers, the reasons men work part-time, whether part-time work is a positive choice or merely an option because full time work is not available, and how this group respond to potential barriers to part-time work.

The research is based on in-depth interviews with males, aged 25-50 who currently have one or more part-time jobs. Currently 19 interviews have been conducted across 4 groups of employees in working in the public sector (a University and a local council) and the private sector (fast food and retail). Further interviews are planned. The interviews have taken is a ‘life histories’ (Tierney 1998) perspective which argues that to understand a person’s current position it is vital to discuss the previous circumstances that helped shape that decision.

The paper analyses the interviews first by exploring the movement into part-time work and identifies four routes, namely from full time employment to part-time, from part-time to different part-time from education to part-time and from unemployment to part-time. These routes are then used to identify three key reasons for men working part-time, which are: lifestyle choices, career security and/or progression and finance.

The interviews to date suggest that for most, but not all, part-time work is an option which is willingly and strategically chosen. Strategically, in this context, includes a move to more satisfying work, a better work-life balance and the opportunity to spend more time with their family. Potential barriers are identified, both financial and in terms of social expectations connected with a ‘breadwinner’ ideology, but, for the most part these are negotiated within the family setting or seen as relatively unimportant.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: men, part-time work, part-time employment, male workers, choices
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: College of Business, Psychology and Sport > Worcester Business School
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Gerry Palmer
Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2014 09:28
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 17:05

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