Why Are There More Women Working Part Time?

The trend does not seem to be disappearing: in Canada, there are still three times as many women as men who have a part-time job. Why?

In Canada, there are more and more women in the active workforce, and they are now more educated than men. Yet in 2015, 76% of Canadian workers working 30 hours or less per week on the job were women, we learn from the 2015 version of the Women in Canada report.

Traditional roles still relevant

Even though men contribute more and more to domestic tasks, the traditional division of roles between men and women continues to influence workforce participation.

Child care is indeed the reason given most often by part-time workers (25% of them) to explain their job situation. In comparison, only 3% of men working part time give this as a reason.

“Family constraints are the real reason explaining the essence of this disparity,” confirms Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay, work sociologist and professor at TÉLUQ. She points out that although both men and women can choose a part-time job during their studies, later in their professional life women who work part time are often forced to do so by an unfair distribution of family responsibilities.

Areas of employment in the balance

Another factor that explains this disparity is the areas of employment where women are overrepresented, such as hospitality and food service. “In certain service sectors, such as hospitality, food service and the retail trade, most jobs offered are part time, so women don’t work part time by choice, but because they are not offered anything else,” the work sociologist indicates.

Part-time work — asset or scourge?

Should we criticize part-time work or celebrate this opportunity to devote more time to personal life? It all depends on the woman worker’s balance in this schedule. As a choice, part-time may be a benefit. If forced, it damages income and complicates family life when the worker has to take on odd jobs to make ends meet.

“Women are increasingly well educated,” emphasizes Diane-Gabrielle Tremblay. “When they work part time because of an overload of family responsibilities and because they have no other choice, society loses in terms of work, creativity and knowledge.”

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