Explaining the Provision of Flexitime in Companies Across Europe (in the pre- and post-crisis Europe): Role of National Contexts

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
TW2.3.03 (Tower Two)
Heejung Chung, University of Kent, Canterbury, United Kingdom
One way of simultaneously increasing work-life balance while keeping costs down for both governments and companies is the use of flexible working-time arrangements (flexitime). Though flexitime plays an increasingly prominent role in occupational welfare not much is known about its provision, especially at a cross-national comparative manner. This paper examines the provision of flexitime in companies across a number of European countries using the European Company Survey for 2004 (21 countries) and 2009 (27 countries). It applies a multilevel modelling technique, wherein companies are considered to be nested in countries, and national and company level characteristics are included in the model simultaneously.  The following four dependent variables were used: Flexitime – whether the company provides it for at least one employee; Flexipro – the proportion of workers covered; Flexihours – the ability to accumulate hours to work shorter and longer days; Flexidays – the ability to take days off with the accumulation of hours.

Results show quite large cross-national variances. On average, in Northern European countries and the UK a larger number of companies provide flexitime, provide it to a larger group of workers within the company and allow it to be used more flexibly. However, while in the UK large groups of workers may have access to flexitime, it is likely that workers are not able to accumulate days off. In Southern European countries, plus Bulgaria, Estonia and Hungary, smaller number of companies provide flexitime, provide it to a smaller group of workers and do not allow for fleixhours or flexidays.

Findings demonstrate that, in 2009, flexitime provision can be largely explained by the national level demand for such arrangements (measured through female labour market participation), the work centrality culture of the country, and the resources countries have to address it (measured through GDP per capita). This is a change from 2004, where the most important factors explaining the provision of flexitime were government efforts in providing family policy and the size of the public sector. Female labour market participation levels may be due to reverse causality, rather than a measure of demand: i.e. where there are more companies using flexitime across the country, more women may be able to take part in the labour market. Furthermore, affluence of a country (GDP per capita) may also indicate changes in individual’s preferences for leisure and their orientation towards work. However, even when work centrality is controlled for, findings demonstrate that the impact of GDP remains, suggesting that affluence may indicate the overall level of resources the country – through its companies as well as its workers – have to provide and use flexitime. The results of the paper shows that industrial relations, economic cycles, gender norms and economic structure are not as relevant as the aforementioned factors. Family policies, meanwhile, are important, but their effects are (fully?) mediated by female labour market participation measures – i.e. its impact disappears when we take into account women’s labour market patterns.