Case Studies

Three-country comparisons on part-time working

Part-time work is embedded in mainstream employment and not restricted to marginal jobs. The majority of working females have a part-time job. Although 40 per cent of female part-timers are mothers of young children, almost half are over 40 years old with no young children. Partnered women working part-time are reported to have high job satisfaction and only 3 per cent of female part-timers would prefer to work full-time (Booth and Van Ours 2010). Most taxes in the Netherlands are neutral to working hours and social security payments are applied to part-time workers on a pro rata basis.
The Netherlands has gradually changed its policy to remove barriers to part-time work and make it more attractive. For example:
  • In 1993, the minimum wage and social security applied to jobs with working hours below a third of normal working hours.
  • A 2000 law established the right to work part-time.
  • A 2001 reform resulted in women reducing their working hours to receive a higher hourly wage rate after tax.
As a result of these legislative changes, plus increased demand for non-standard hours by employers, part-time working since the 1990s has increased.

The UK

The UK is characterized by a long working hours’ culture, while formal childcare is expensive. For these reasons, the UK has one of the highest part-time rates in Europe and is highly gendered. Occupational downgrading for part-time working is common in the UK and is one of the reasons for a significant gender pay gap.
Previously in the UK, part-timers were often subject to less favourable treatment than full-timers. For example, between 1975 and 1995 those working fewer than eight hours a week were disqualified from many statutory rights, and those working between 8 and 16 hours had to have five years’ continuous employment to qualify for many employment rights. Part-timers were therefore ‘crowded’ into the low-wage economy. The Part-time Workers Regulations came into effect in 2000, giving equal contractual rights to part-timers, equal pay and equal benefits. Subsequent UK legislation has introduced the right of all employees to request flexible working hours.


Until recently, part-time working was almost non-existent in Hungary. However, the part-time rate has increased slightly since the Employment Promotion Act of 1991, which allows subsidies for part-time work, although the rate remains significantly below the EU average. There is little difference between male and female part-time rates. The labour market is relatively inflexible with demand and supply concentrated in either eight-hour full-time or four- to six-hour part-time jobs. It is also relatively common to work part-time while also working full-time and receiving full pay on an undeclared basis. This ‘pseudo’ part-time avoids the need to pay the minimum wage. It is often involuntary, carried out on the basis of oral agreements with the employer, and is found in low-wage industries.
The EU Part-time Directive took effect from 2003, prohibiting discrimination against part-time workers and making efforts to avoid the minimum wage legislation through employing ‘pseudo’ part-time workers illegal. Since 2010, it has been compulsory for public sector organizations to provide part-time employment on a 20-hours-a-week basis for females returning from maternity leave, until the child is 3 years old. Childcare provision is free in Hungary, although there are concerns that the state-run childcare system will be unable to deal with the increased demand as more mothers look to work part-time.
Source: Eurofound (2011)
Q1. What are the key differences in part-time working across the Netherlands, UK and Hungary, and why do you think that these differences occur?