Good work, at times

The economy is adding nearly twice as many part-time jobs and full-time ones

Good work at times

Thomas Northcut/GETTY IMAGES

While employment in Canada was up in December 2010, one perceived drawback was that the share of part-time workers also jumped. Full-time employment edged up a solid 1.9 per cent over the previous 12 months, but the rate at which the economy added part-time jobs was almost double, at 3.4 per cent. The proportion of part-timers in the working population has been on the rise since the mid-2000s, but the trend has accelerated in the past two years. Economists worry the high share of part-time workers, which neared 20 per cent at the end of 2010, is an unhealthy side effect of the recession. But while about a third of Canadians continue to prefer full-time jobs, according to Statistics Canada, there are signs that fewer work hours are becoming a matter of choice.

A 2010 Telus/Harris/Decima survey found that 89 per cent of Canadians report that offering flexible work hours makes an employer more attractive. After salary levels, the study revealed, it was the most important factor for employees looking for a new job. And creative work arrangements reducing time in the cubicle benefit employers too. In 2009, the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that 78 per cent of U.S. companies thought that offering so-called “flexwork” decreases turnover rates.

The rising ranks of part-timers can partly be explained by a jump in the number of older workers choosing to put off retirement. But it could also be a symptom of an increasingly gender-neutral job market, say experts. In the Netherlands, for instance, scores of young professionals are happily opting for four-day workweeks to dedicate more time to the little ones. And as “daddy days” are reportedly no longer taboo even in high-pressure, competitive environments such as law firms, working part-time is losing the stigma that made it by definition the choice of career-shy women in the past, reports the New York Times.

And as employers compete to attract talented workers—especially generation Y-ers—offering more part-time work options is becoming a must-have.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.