The part-time US workforce is at very high levels and it is concerning for many economists. There are a number of reasons why this may be, but it is clear that advancements in technology have created an economy where many jobs can be replaced by machines or computers. This is a trend that has been increasing overtime and will not slow down anytime soon. This is a major issue for our economy because the vast majority of those part-time workers would like full time jobs but they are unable to find them. When someone is in a part-time role they generally get paid less per hour, their employer does not offer them benefits, and they are more likely to lose their job than a full time employee. Today, there are 6 million Americans who work part-time, but would like to work full-time. Of the part-time workers in the US, 25% of them live in poverty, while only 5% of full time workers do.
As technology advances, part-time workers increase as a result of machines / computers being more efficient for businesses to use than people. There has also been a shift in the way companies operate, and companies like Uber are now prevalent and encourage part-time workers. The US is entering a new error where “part-time” workers may become the new norm. This doesn’t mean that everyone will have their hours cut in half one day, but one option to solve this unemployment issue to shorten the work day or to hire two part-time workers instead of one full time worker.
If the US were to shorten the workday to 30 hours a week instead of 40 hours a week, this would allow companies to employ more people in order to get the same amount of work done. The same idea applies to hiring two part-time employees instead of one full time employee. Many people want to work and feel like they have a purpose, but most people would love to work shorter hours whether it is shortening each work day or to have four day work weeks. This would be good for society because people would have more time with their families and friends, and it would also decrease the unemployment rate and the part-time employment rate.
One argument for why “part-time” is the new “full-time”, involves the evolution of the US moving away from farming. In the early 1900s majority of the US were farmers, and today only 2% are. This shift is largely due to technology surrounding farming that has made it that much more efficient. People are no longer working in a field 12 hours a day in order to provide for their families, and maybe 15-20 years from now people will not be sitting in cubicles for 60 hours a week in order to provide for their families.
The same way farmers from the early 1900s slowly evolved to have different careers, today, the traditional “full-time” employee may evolve into something different but at a much faster pace due to technology. This does not mean people will stop working; they will just be working in a different way. We have already seen this shift begin to appear with Uber drivers and all of the other companies out there that are like it. If this trend does in fact continue, then new regulations will have to be put in place to support all of these part-time employees. One reason part-time workers have increased in recent years is due to recent healthcare regulations, because companies do not have to provide employees with healthcare if they work less than 30 hours a week, so many employers cut hours so they could avoid supplying benefits. Once there are regulations in place to support part-time workers, this trend will increase rapidly.