Is Working Part-Time a Choice or an Obligation?

Is working 4 days a week or less a voluntary choice or an obligation? What motivates people who are working part time?

In 2016, 1 worker out of 5 held a part-time job in Quebec (19.1%). The figures are revealing: 64% of women on a part-time basis compared to 36% of men, according to data from the Institut de la statistique du Québec. This proportion is not surprising, since women still take on the greatest share of family tasks and responsibilities.

But is it by choice or due to the lack of finding anything better? After all, the job market is becoming more and more fragmented.  Employers are seeking flexibility to serve a clientele whose expectations are spreading out over more of the day. Some banks offer 5-hour shifts, while others require being available on the weekend.

Last August, part-time jobs were increasing (+110,000) in Quebec, while the number of full-time jobs was decreasing (-88,000). This has been a recurrent trend for several years, with the emergency of the gig economy and increasing self-employment.

Seeing the benefits of working part-time

For Ann, a project coordinator in the Quebec civil service, the choice has become more and more appealing over the years. After a first “imposed” experience of 4 days a week due to health issues, she has just made the choice to work 4 days a week, without being forced.

The reason? “It’s a rhythm that suits me better. I take Fridays off to do household chores and grocery shopping. It’s really better for organizing family life,” she confides. “We can enjoy our weekend.” Her social life has also improved. “I invite friends for dinner on Friday, when they are available.”

The counterpart of this choice is the financial sacrifice that has to be made. “It’s true that it’s irritating to see how much it costs at the end of the year,” Ann says, who loses a bit more than 15% of her salary. The financial factor nonetheless does not weigh heavily in the balance. “There is truly a better quality of life. Of all the people I know who work on a reduced schedule, I don’t know anyone who wants to go back to 5 days.”

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