Is Part-time the New Normal?

With continued sluggish unemployment reports, are we becoming a nation of part-time workers? A recent report from the U.S. Census of Agriculture revealed that more than half – 52 percent – of American farmers only work part time. The majority of our 2.1 million farmers responsible for day-to-day farm operations do not list farming as their principal occupation.

[CLICK HERE to read the highlight report, “2012 Census of Agriculture,” at the United States Department of Agriculture, Feb. 2014.]

Another recent news item highlights the “part-timing” of our university professors. In the last decade, while the cost of college tuition has risen exponentially, some campuses have been cutting back on professor pay and benefits by adding more part-time adjunct professors. Adjunct means professors are hired on an as-needed basis, depending on class enrollment from one semester to the next. In other words, they don’t work full-time, don’t receive benefits, and don’t even know if they’ll have that same job in five months. Among our nation’s college instructors, more than three-quarters – 76 percent – teach part time.

And that’s just the perspective of professors. Representing the viewpoint of students, one co-ed recently tweeted: “Why are ‘part time’ professors even a thing? It’s so inconvenient when you need help & you can’t even see your instructor for office hours.”

According to a report by the Delta Cost Project, while universities, on average, have reduced their full-time teaching staff in recent years, they’ve increased the number of school administrators.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Part-time Professors Demand Higher Pay: Will Colleges Listen?” at NPR.org, Feb. 3, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Labor Intensive or Labor Expensive?” at Delta Cost Project, Feb. 2014.]

The opinions on whether working from home is more of a slack-off part-time job versus a highly productive one, is also a subject of great debate. Recent findings from a study in China, published by The Harvard Business Review, revealed that customer call center workers assigned to work from home completed almost an extra workday a week. Not only that, the company conducting the study also found that at-home workers were happier and less likely to quit.

One of the study’s researchers observed that:

“At home, people don’t experience what we call the “cake in the break room” effect. Offices are actually incredibly distracting places … people at home worked more hours. They started earlier, took shorter breaks, and worked until the end of the day. They had no commute. They didn’t run errands at lunch. Sick days for employees working from home plummeted.”

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home,” at The Harvard Business Review, Jan.-Feb. 2014.]

As far as the American workweek goes, some would prefer we move more towards the European standard of less work and more time to play. Among other industrialized nations, here’s a quick look at some of the more flexible gems:

  • The four-day workweek is nearly standard in the Netherlands, averaging around 29 hours a week – the lowest of any industrialized nation.
  • In Germany, one in four workers are part-timers. In fact, formal work-sharing policies have been credited with reducing the country’s unemployment rate in recent years.
  • In Italy, employers can be fined if their employees work overtime more than eight hours a week. And the lucky Italians enjoy at least four weeks of paid vacation each year.
  • In Switzerland, workers earn nearly the same as the average American, but work 155 fewer hours each year. While a third of the country works part-time, it enjoys the highest employment rate (79 percent) of any industrialized nation.
  • Every Belgian worker is entitled to a one-year break during their working lifetime, during which time they receive a government allowance.
[CLICK HERE to read the article, “World’s Shortest Work Weeks,” at CNNmoney.com, July 10, 2013.]

Whether we’re moving to a more liberal work standard – or still experiencing the effects of the recession – part-timers may have the opportunity to experience more free time than fellow full-timers.  If we can help you address your financial concerns and meet your long-term goals, please give us a call.


The information and opinions contained herein are provided by third parties and have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. It is given for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. All clients are encouraged to consult qualified tax and legal professionals before making any decisions about their personal situation.


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