The latest report on the gender pay gap from the UK’s Institute for Fiscal Studies sheds some new light on precisely how becoming a mother leads women to earn less than men—the so-called “motherhood penalty”—and contributes to the gender pay gap. The BBC highlights the key findings:
The Institute for Fiscal Studies report found by the time a couple’s first child is aged 20, many mothers earn nearly a third less than the fathers. A key factor was women working part-time in motherhood, the report said. …
“The effect of part-time work in shutting down wage progression is especially striking,” the report added. “Whereas, in general, people in paid work see their pay rise year on year as they gain more experience, our new research shows that part-time workers miss out on these gains.” The vast majority of part-time workers were women, especially mothers of young children, the report said.
Other studies, including a previous version of the same IFS report, have identified the motherhood penalty as a major factor (if not indeed the factor) driving the gender pay gap over time. These studies have found that even when women and men start out their careers earning equal salaries, disparities begin to emerge in their late 20s and 30s, coinciding with the years in which women are most likely to have children. Because women are expected to take on the bulk of child care responsibilities, it is mothers who are usually forced to take career breaks or work part-time to make room in their schedules for these obligations, while fathers tend to remain at work.
Discussing a recent report from Guardian Life Insurance Company, SHRM’s Stephen Miller examines the case for using voluntary benefits to compete for and retain part-time employees and independent contractors. Noting that most part-time workers lack employer-sponsored health care plans, retirement plans, or other core benefits, Guardian suggests that voluntary benefits can be a good way to help address these employees’ needs:
Under a voluntary benefit program, the employer offers workers a menu of benefits; employees pay for the ones they want through payroll deductions. The employee pays the cost, and the benefits provider handles all administration and provides all needed education materials, [Peggy Maher, senior vice president and head of Guardian’s direct-to-consumer business in New York City,] explained. Usually employees are responsible for paying 100 percent of the premiums. However, voluntary benefits sometimes are niche offerings, such as pet insurance, that might appeal to a subset of workers, and employers may pay part of the cost.
Providing access to voluntary benefits can ease part-time workers’ financial stress, reduce turnover and differentiate employers from competitors in the talent market, Maher noted.
Sure, organizations could offer benefits to part-time employees to increase retention, but why would they? Two of the main benefits of having a part-time employee is that they cost less than full-time employees, in terms of both money and time, and they require less long-term commitment, as most are hired to complete a shorter-term project or task.
In a new report, the Economic Policy Institute finds that “an ongoing structural shift toward more intensive use of part-time employment by many employers is driving the elevated rate of involuntary part-time work” in the US, leaving 6.4 million American workers with part-time hours when they would prefer to be working full-time:
Not getting enough hours is the “time-related” type of underemployment, a phenomenon where people may be working but not up to their desired amount, and it is a sign of labor underutilization in the economy. The monthly rate of workers in the U.S. labor market who are working “part time for economic reasons”—who are considered “involuntary” part-timers because they want to and are available to work full time—is the most consistent indicator of such underemployment. That rate is higher now that it was before the Great Recession and during the depths of the early 2000s recession. That it remains stubbornly high indicates that there is more labor market slack than is captured by the unemployment rate alone. …
This report suggests that, in addition to cyclical forces (in this case, lingering effects of the recession), there is an ongoing structural shift in many businesses toward more intensive use of part-time employment, driving the elevated rate of involuntary part-time employment. Increased employer use of part-time positions is particularly evident in industries in which part-time jobs are already more prevalent, such as retail, and hotels and food service.
Dan Kopf at Quartz highlights some updated research from economists Alan Krueger and Lawrence Katz (whose work we’ve looked at before) finding that from 2005 to 2015, almost all of the new jobs created in the US economy were not traditional full-time jobs but rather temporary, contract, or “gig economy” work:
Amazon is getting ready to launch a 30-hour workweek pilot program for a small segment of its workforce. As we’ve previously covered, the program will consist of entire technical teams of part-time workers, including managers, and they’ll receive the same benefits as full-time employees but only 75 percent of full-time pay. The Washington Post‘s Karen Turner has more:
“We want to create a work environment that is tailored to a reduced schedule and still fosters success and career growth,” states a posting by the company on Eventbrite.com for an informational seminar. “This initiative was created with Amazon’s diverse workforce in mind and the realization that the traditional full-time schedule may not be a ‘one size fits all’ model.
Currently, the pilot program will be small, consisting of a few dozen people. These teams will work on tech products within the human resources division of the company, working Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with additional flex hours. Their salaries will be lower than 40-hour workers, but they will have the option to transition to full-time if they choose. Team members will be hired from inside and outside the company. Amazon does not have plans to alter the 40-hour workweek on a companywide level, the spokesman said.
With the value of a typical 40-hour workweek coming into question, Turner notes that Amazon’s program could have a big influence on how other companies perceive the issue, especially since some organizations are already offer their employees four-day workweeks, yet still expect a full 40 hours of work:
After the New York Times published a controversial report about a year ago depicting Amazon as a hyper-competitive company with a culture of overwork and harsh criticism, the e-commerce giant moved to combat the piece’s negative portrayal of its work environment. CEO Jeff Bezos has steadfastly defended his organization’s culture, telling shareholders in an April letter that Amazon’s culture has always worked well for people who thrive in a competitive and innovative environment.
At the same time, Amazon began soliciting more frequent feedback from its corporate employees about their job satisfaction, and now, it’s piloting a program seemingly designed to cultivate an image of dedication to flexibility and work-life balance. Monica Nickelsburg has the details at GeekWire:
A new pilot program inside Amazon is creating technical teams consisting entirely of part-time employees — including managers — in the the company’s latest attempt to compete for tech talent and build a reputation as a flexible place to work. The part-time employees who join the program will still be eligible for the same benefits as Amazon’s full-time employees, the company says. Every member of these teams will work part-time — a structure Amazon says will help employees coordinate schedules and own projects from start to finish.
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As the push for paid parental leave in the US gathers steam, momentum is building around government policies making it mandatory, such as those recently passed in New York City and San Francisco, and many reformers have their sights on a national parental leave mandate (which all but three other countries around the world already have). Whether the future of this benefit is driven by government or business, however, many factors go into creating a parental policy that does right by working parents, some of which don’t get talked about very often.
For example, in an interview on the importance of parental leave and the challenges of mainstreaming it in the US, Stanford professor emerita Myra Stroeber points out that the much-touted Scandinavian model of generous leave has a hidden downside when it comes to women’s career paths:
In Scandinavia, not only can you get paid maternity leave and paternity leave but you can also get part-time work very easily. Although that looks like a blessing, it turns out to be detrimental to women’s movement up the ladder. We don’t have employers now who see part-time workers as really committed and warranting promotion. So if you take part-time work, it often winds up being mommy track work–poorly paid on a per hour basis and not leading to mainline jobs. Also, part-time workers often find that they in fact work many more hours than they get paid for. …
The much-vaunted gig economy is disrupting industries right and left, and while it has opened up new opportunities for workers to earn money outside a traditional job, relying on gig platforms for one’s livelihood often makes for a precarious life—without benefits, job security, or guarantees of full-time employment—and the rise of the gig economy may be one reason why more Americans are working part-time.
With those downsides in mind, Laurie Ruettimann suspects that the gig economy really only works for privileged professionals like herself—”a woman who has built a successful business and has a little money in the bank … no kids and a husband with a regular job who provides our health insurance.” For most other Americans, she argues, “the gig economy is a lie”:
There are still consultants and speakers out there who talk about the future of work as if it’s a gig economy. Those people are idiots. Workers aren’t paid enough to participate in the gig economy. It’s often cheaper to drop out of the labor pool and let the robots swoop in and do the work. We’ll figure out other ways to thrive.