Accueil » 51-3 ( 1996) » Temps partiel et précarité

Temps partiel et précarité

Francine Mayer


Ce texte utilise les données de l'Enquête sur l'activité de Statistique Canada pour les années 1988-89 pour examiner la question de la précarité liée au temps partiel dans une perspective longitudinale. Il propose comme indicateur de la précarité liée au temps partiel, la discontinuité dans l'emploi, notamment les risques de sortie hors emploi et les difficultés d'accès ou de retour au temps complet. Il trouve que (i) l'emploi à temps partiel est plus généralement lié aux discontinuités d'emploi que le temps complet, (ii) les risques de sortie d'emploi sont accrus chez les salariés à temps partiel, (iii) les femmes subissent davantage que les hommes la précarité liée au temps partiel. Chez elles, les facteurs susceptibles d'accroître les risques de précarité liée au temps partiel sont la responsabilité d'enfants d'âge préscolaire, une scolarité insuffisante et des horaires de travail qui les éloignent d'une situation de temps complet.


In 1993, part-time work represented 17.3% of total employment in Canada. Of these jobs, 35.3% were involuntary and 69.3% were held by women. Compared to full-time work, part-time work means not only fewer hours but also a different status. It is characterized by a limited range of generally less skilled occupations, with low wages, few fringe benefits and weaker social protection. Opportunities for training and advancement are also limited. According to Maruani and Reynaud (1993 :59), most part-time work is unstable and borders on unemployment. This article examines the precariousness associated with part-time work from a longitudinal perspective.

It proposes, as an indicator of precariousness, a measure of employment discontinuity based on the risk of exit from employment and the difficulty in returning to full-time work.

Data come from the longitudinal file of Statistics Canada's Labour Market Activity Survey for the years 1988-89. The sample covers adults aged 16 to 64 who held paid employment at some time during the period of observation, and includes 17,982 women and 19,137 men. The first section provides a description of labour force participation profiles and the gross annual flows between part-time work, full-time work and exits from employaient. The results show that part-time work is generally less stable than full-time work, that discontinuous employment profiles are more frequent among part-time workers and that the risk of exit from employment is higher among part-time workers. Furthermore, women represent the majoriry of part-time employees. In contrast to men, for whom part-time work is concentrated among young people and rare in the ages of high participation (25 to 54), part-time work is frequent at all ages among women. Especially in the 25 to 54 age group, women are more likely to work exclusively part-time and less likely to work only full-time. They also change more frequently between these two kinds of employment, but movements from full-time towards part-time work are more likely for women whereas movements in the opposite direction are more frequent among men. As a result, particularly in the high participation ages, women are more exposed to the risks of precariousness associated with part-time work.

In order to understand the determinants of mobility towards full-time work and the factors of precariousness linked to part-time work, a model of the duration of part-time employment episodes is estimated. The model highlights the differences between the effects of individual characteristics and employment characteristics which are likely to encourage transition towards a full-time job and those which are linked to exit from employment after a particular part-time episode. Estimation results suggest that, in the case of women, the factors likely to increase the risk of precariousness linked to part-time work are the responsability for pre-school children, insufficient educational qualifications and work schedules that are very different from full-time work. On the other hand, access to full-time employment is more likely for those with high levels of education. Part-time work which is voluntary and of better quality, in particular jobs with union protection and higher wages, is more likely to be stable. In a context of persistent unemployment, part-time work and other forms of work sharing have been put forward as part of a strategy to reduce unemployment and increase labour market flexibility. Because shorter hours are generally accompanied by poor working conditions, measures to increase mobility between part-time and full-time work and improve the economie security of part-time workers are essential.

The results presented in this text provide arguments in favour of policies to support the development of new competencies and occupational training. They suggest, furthermore, that part-time workers are not necessarily "unstable workers" : better quality part-time jobs encourage stability. The results also strongly support the arguments for treating part-time workers on a par with full-time workers and for better economic security for part-time workers. Lastly, for women with young children, part-time work in its present form does not offer sufficient flexibility to combine professional activities and family responsibilities. The improvement of child-care services should be a social priority. However, for both men and women, the possibility to arrange more flexible work schedules or to negotiate reduced working time with a guaranteed right to return to full-time work is probably the best solution.