In the last decade, part-time employment as a percentage of total employment has increased in most industrialized countries (O’Reilly and Fagan, 1998). In 1992, 14.2% of the total EU working population defined themselves as part-time workers; by 2002, this figure had increased to 18.1%. There are marked differences in part-time employment rates depending on countries, sectors or occupations, as well as individual characteristics such as age or gender.
Minority of EU men (6.6%) work on a part-time basis, this percentage is much higher in the case of women (33.5%) (data in both cases for 2002). The highest presence of part-time workers can be observed in the Netherlands (43.8% of total employment), followed by an intermediate group comprising the United Kingdom (25.0%), Sweden (21.4%), Germany (20.8%) and Denmark (20.6%). The lowest presence of part-time employment can be found in the southern European countries: Portugal (11.3%), Italy (8.6%), Spain (8.0%) and Greece (4.5%). These national differences are caused by a combination of factors including differences in the state of the economy, the labour market, the organisation of childcare, education, and tax and social security systems (O’Reilly and Fagan, 1998).
Interestingly, and from a time dynamic perspective, part-time work has increased in all Member States for both men and women in the time period 1992-2002, with the only exceptions of Greece in the case of men and Denmark and Sweden in the case of women.
The countries with the lowest differences between male and female part-time workers are the Nordic countries of Finland, Denmark, Sweden, as well as the Netherlands. In these countries, the rate of female part-time employment is, at most, three times the male part-time rate. As stated above, Denmark and Sweden are the only countries in the EU where the female part-time presence dropped between 1992 and 2002. Spain, Germany, Austria and Luxembourg show the largest differences between male and female part-time rates. In these countries, female part-time rates are seven or more times higher than those for men.