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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 13: Developing Positive Flexibility for Employees: The British Trade Union Approach

Jo Morris and Jane Pillinger


Jo Morris and Jane Pillinger INTRODUCTION Working time has become a central feature of national and European policy and this has resulted in radical thinking about the nature and organization of work and working time patterns. The European Commission’s prediction that the linear career concept of the twentieth century (education, work, retirement) will increasingly be replaced by the ‘norm of the varied working life’ is increasingly being realized in practice (Naegele, 2003). Significant change in working time in recent years has been marked by a slowing down of the long-term trend towards reduced working hours, a greater intensity of work and an increased incidence of long working hours, particularly in the UK, Denmark, Finland and Belgium (OECD, 2003). The increasing complexity of people’s lives brought about by societal, family, demographic and household change, resulting from the growth of women’s participation in the labour market, longer periods of time spent in full- and part-time education and early retirement, means that more workers are seeking flexible working hours and work–life balance. Trade unions have been advocating shorter working hours (35-hour week), an end to the long hours culture and greater opportunities for employees to work flexibly. Employers are increasingly placing an emphasis on flexible work for the recruitment and retention of staff, competitiveness, growth and improved services. In this context the perspective of the life course (Anxo and Boulin, 2005) and of lifetime hours (Boulin and Hoffman, 1999) has helped to foster a better understanding of how workers’ differential working time...

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