5 Dec 2017

Gender time gap -- Why do half of Austrian women work part-time?

The particularly high number of female part-time employees in Austria raises numerous questions. What is the underlying reason? How can we distribute work in a more balanced way?

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Gender time
gap -- Why do half of Austrian women work part-time? - NewsMavens
Women at work in the 1940s. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The prevalence of part-time employment in Austria varies greatly depending on age and gender. About half of women and 10% of men work part-time. This "gender-time gap" is compounded by the fact that full-time employees -- mostly men -- work overtime.

“Shorter working hours of women are a consequence of traditional gender roles, which force them to take up unpaid work, such as caring for the house, children or the elderly," Alois Pumhösl wrote in Der Standard.

A recent study titled "Working time distribution in Austria" suggests strategies for dealing with this issue. According to the study, distribution of work varies depending on industry and qualification. For example, 44% of men who hold a university degree work overtime, as much as 41 to 59 hours a week. This figure is much less significant among men with compulsory education -- only 17% of them work long hours. To a lesser extent, this trend can also be detected among women.

The author of the study, Christine Mayhuber, puts forward measures that may facilitate a more even distribution of the work time. One of them would be parental leave -- a tool available to both women and men, yet seldom used by the latter group. When it comes to tax law, other possible measures already at hand are overtime lump sums and the taxation of allowances. Thus, Mayhuber is not calling for a huge reform but rather for a rational use of the existing options. She defines them as:

"Small measures that can prevent the promotion of excessive working hours and reduce the incredibly high difference between the average working time of women and men."

For years now, Austria has been debating the statutory reduction of working hours. A reduction to 37.5 or even 35 hours per week is up for discussion. While the advocates of this proposal consider it to be a valid strategy against unemployment, critics warn that reducing working time would cause damage to the economy.

Details from the story:

  • How can work-time be distributed in a more balanced way? This question was an underlying idea of the study “Working time distribution in Austria", conducted by the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO) on behalf of the Ministry of Social Affairs.
  • The study is based on data from the Labor Force Survey 2008-2015, executed in all EU countries and considered to be a highly reliable source of data. It includes detailed information on working hours and overtime.
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