An analysis of the extent, nature and consequences of female part-time employment in post apartheid South Africa.
International studies of part-time employment have shown that most part-time workers are women, and specifically married women (Rosenfeld and Birkelund 1995; Caputo and Cianni 2001). The ability to work part-time enables women who have household commitments, such as caring for children, to maintain an attachment to the labour force and to preserve job skills while also undertaking household labour (Long and Jones 1981; Rosenfeld and Birkelund 1995). In many countries, therefore, the growth in part-time employment has constituted an important component of the increase in women’s work. However, part-time jobs are often considered to be poorly remunerated, offering little or no security, limited opportunities for career advancement and few (if any) benefits (Rosenfeld and Birkelund 1995; Rodgers 2004; Hirsch 2005; Bardasi and Gornick 2008). Although empirical research on South Africa’s labour markets has expanded significantly over the post-apartheid period, particularly with the introduction of nationally representative household surveys that capture individual employment data, little is known about the characteristics of South African part-time workers, or about the nature of the work these individuals perform. Using data from a selection of South Africa’s nationally representative household surveys, namely the October Household Surveys, the Labour Force Surveys and the Labour Force Survey Panel, this thesis aims to redress this lacuna. The thesis comprises four empirical chapters. The first chapter outlines the definition of part-time employment adopted throughout the study, and it presents gendered trends in part-time employment in South Africa from 1995 to 2006. The descriptive analysis shows that most part-time workers in South Africa are women, and further, that the growth in female part-time employment has been an important part of the feminisation of the labour force in South Africa. The second chapter compares part-time and full-time wage (salaried) employment. The main analytical question addressed in this chapter is whether women are penalised for working part-time. Although hourly wages in part-time employment are, on average, lower than in full-time employment, the study demonstrates that after controlling for differences in observable and unobservable characteristics, women in part-time employment receive a wage premium. The third chapter explores heterogeneity among part-time wage workers, distinguishing between women who choose to work part-time and women who report wanting to work longer hours. Key findings of this chapter are that a wage premium persists for women both in voluntary and in involuntary part-time work; but that involuntary part-time workers have a stronger labour force attachment than voluntary part-time workers. The fourth chapter uses the distinction between part-time and full-time employment to investigate changes in the gender wage gap in employment. The results show that the total gender gap in wages among part-time and full-time workers has fallen over the years, with the greatest reduction visible for those working part-time. The final chapter summarises the main findings of the thesis and it outlines avenues for further research on part-time employment in South Africa.