Dependent Earners and Part-Time Employment in the Household Context

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
TW1.2.04 (Tower One)
Vanessa Gash, City University London, London, United Kingdom
Antje Mertens, Berlin School of Economics, Berlin, Germany
Laura Romeu Gordo, DZA, Deutsches Zentrum für Altersfragen, Berlin, Germany
Martina Dieckhoff, WZB, Berlin Social Science Center, Berlin, Germany
The paper asks whether and under which circumstances female employment can still be considered to be "dependent" on the partner's labor force participation and income within the household context. We ask whether the labor market status of men is an important predictor of women's employment and working hours. For that purpose we compare households in Germany and the UK. These are two countries with high rates of female part-time employment, which have been increasing especially in Germany since the 1990s. While in both countries employees have the legal right to reduce working hours under certain conditions (Act on Part-Time Work and Fixed-Term Employment in Germany and Employment Act in the UK), both countries studied exhibit important variation in industrial relations and employment protection and are thus fruitful cases for a cross-national comparison.

The goal of this paper is to answer the question of whether the determinants for part-time employment lie primarily in the individual or the partner's sphere. Will women choose part-time only if it can be afforded or do they work part-time irrespective of household income and the risk of the partner to lose his labor income? To investigate this question, we estimate logit regressions for women, where the dependent variable is the probability of changing working hours from full-time to part-time (or vice versa) in the next (or subsequent period) respectively. In our estimations, we control for the usual socio-demographic characteristics, presence of children, life events and household variables, especially changes in male partner's income or working hours, changes in labor force status of the partner and changes of self-reported health status. Preliminary results suggest that part time employment is much more frequent (and increases more) if the partner works full time compared to if the partner works only part-time or is not employed at all. This is in line with theories claiming that part time employment is a ‘choice’ and determined together at the household level. As was to be expected, children are an important factor, with the increase in part-time and decrease in full-time employment over time being more pronounced in households with children. An increase in household income in the previous year increases the probability of women moving from full-time to part-time employment.