Is part-time the new full-time?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

8 comments

  1. I think this was a very interesting post. One point that needs to be considered is how much people will actually get paid. If people are only working part time, they will need to work two jobs to be able to make the same amount of money (if they’re not receiving benefits, probably more). I think the efficiencies you have mentioned prompt new innovation, which is why you see jobs related to computer science and engineering continue to be more stable jobs than those jobs that can be automated. Great statistics throughout the article – thanks for sharing.

  2. If the US were to shorten the workday to 30 hours a week instead of 40 hours a week, like the Netherlands 29 hour ave workweek, it would have a dramatic impact on not only our work, income, possessions, but our culture. I do think is the way of the future. How the materialistic USA shifts to this is a question for which I don’t have the answer. The Netherlands made this move, as a response to low employment and economic malaise; they reasoned that it was better that everyone was less employed than a significant minority being completely unemployed. http://money.cnn.com/gallery/news/economy/2013/07/10/worlds-shortest-work-weeks/

  3. Aditya Murali · ·

    Very interesting post! I definitely see a shift in the way the workforce will be over the coming years. I don’t think the traditional 9-5 workday is going to stick around. This idea of doing two part time jobs seems to be more of the trend, like making a living off of a part time desk job and driving Uber’s the other half of the time. What is scary is that 6 million people are looking for full time employment and cannot find any. This is definitely a major concern and I have no idea how this could be solved.

  4. I found this blog post super interesting. Technology has really helped shift our work force and a lot of jobs here in the United States. If more people do work part time jobs, I wonder if that will help the unemployment rate and how that will affect how much people get paid. Will people have to get paid more because they are working less? Will productivity increase because people are worked out less ? It will also be interesting to see what regulations there are with this shift.

  5. emmaharney21 · ·

    Wow this is so interesting! It made me think a lot about online labor markets and some of the topics from last week. This reminded me of a professor I had here at BC for Analytics and Business Intelligence named Marios Kokkodis. He is especially interested in how data plays a role in these online labor markets. Here is a link to the abstract of a paper he wrote on very similar topics to last weeks ideas of reputation in this labor space. http://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/abs/10.1287/mnsc.2015.2217 I know that he worked for oDesk which highlighted the ability for people to create their own hours and accept as many or as little jobs as they would like. I think this discussion fits in really well with your topic because there are so many jobs that are no longer needing full-time workers. On a non-digital business related note this post made me think of my dad who is a commercial fisherman on Cape Cod. His job in many ways has to be part time because of the seasons. I think there are many individuals like him who are self-employed that fall into this category. While fishing would be difficult to transcribe into an online position, something like a freelance writer or artist could easily be marketed to a wider audience through something like oDesk. I think your post brought up a lot of great points!

    1. adamsmea89 · ·

      Thanks for sharing that link, very interesting stuff!!

  6. Nice post! We’re going to be talking about similar issues next week in class, and I just did an article for SMR on a very related topic.

  7. cmackeenbc · ·

    Cool post! I sure hope that the US is able to establish some kind of reduced work week so that more part-time employees have the opportunity for work and full-time employees can strive for that fantasy “work-life balance”. I think it is difficult when you have companies like Amazon who so aggressively strive for innovation that they destroy the potential for a healthy work culture (check out this article if you are unclear as to what I mean: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html). I can, however, see other innovative firms such as Facebook adopting a different work week in order to increase their breadth of talent. It will be interesting to see if the culture is able to change as further digital disruption occurs. Nice job!

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