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Gender Divisions and Working Time in the New Economy

Changing Patterns of Work, Care and Public Policy in Europe and North America

Edited by Diane Perrons, Colette Fagan, Linda McDowell, Kath Ray and Kevin Ward

Contemporary societies are characterised by new and more flexible working patterns, new family structures and widening social divisions. This book explores how these macro-level changes affect the micro organisation of daily life, with reference to working patterns and gender divisions in Northern and Western Europe and the United States.
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Chapter 3: Employment in a 24/7 Economy: Challenges for the Family

Harriet B. Presser


* Harriet B. Presser INTRODUCTION Over recent decades, the US labour force has been experiencing greater diversity in the nature of employment. The total number of weekly hours people are employed has been spreading to both ends of the continuum, so that more people are working very few as well as very many hours (Smith, 1986; US Department of Labor, 2002). Which hours people are working has also been changing, with flexitime on the rise (Golden, 2001; US Department of Labor, 1998), and more people working the ‘fringe times’ of the traditional 9–5 working day (Hamermesh, 1999). Interestingly, the increasing diversity in work hours has been occurring while the cumulative number of weekly hours people are employed has remained virtually unchanged between 1970 and 2001 (Rones et al., 1997; US Department of Labor, 2002).1 An important but often neglected aspect of temporal diversity is employment that occurs mostly in the evening or night, or on a rotating basis around the clock. Although we do not have comparable data over time to rigorously assess the trend in non-day work shifts, there are strong indications that such employment is on the rise as we move toward a 24-hour, 7-days-aweek economy. As of 1997, only 29.1 per cent of all Americans worked mostly during the daytime, 35–40 hours per week, Monday to Friday – the ‘standard’ working week. Removing the limitation of 35–40 hours, and including those working part-time and overtime, the percentage increases to 54.4 per cent – a bare majority...

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