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There is no universally accepted definition of part-time work/employment. A definition proposed by the ILO defined part-time work as “regular employment in which working time is substantially less than normal” (Population active, emploi, chomage et sous-emploi: un manual du BIT surles methodes et concepts, Hussmans, Merhan et Verma, ILO, Geneva, page 87).

This is the definition used for administrative purposes in some countries. However, such definitions are inconvenient for use in household surveys. These tend to ask employees if they consider themselves as part-time, or base the distinction between full- and part-time working on an hours cut-off considered most suitable for the country concerned.

The definition of part-time work varies considerably across OECD Member countries. Essentially three main approaches can be distinguished:

- a classification based on the worker’s perception of his/her employment situation;
- a cut-of (generally 30 or 35 hours per week) based on usual working hours with persons usually working fewer hours being considered as part-timers;
- a comparable cut-off based on actual hours worked during the reference week.

The OECD has decided to define part-time working in terms of usual working hours under 30 per week in statistics on the incidence of part-time working presented in the Statistical Annex of the OECD annual Employment Outlook publication.

However, this approach dos not apply to the information on preferences for part-time working. The available statistics on preferences always leave it to the individuals concerned to make their own assessment of their work status and their attitudes to it. [OECD Employment Outlook, June 1999, Chapter 1, recent Labour Market Developments and Prospects, page 22].

Source Publication:
The Definition of Part-time Work for the Purpose of International Comparisons, A. Bastelaer, G. Lemaitre, P. Marianna, Labour Market and Social Policy Occasional Papers – No. 22, OECD, 1997, page 12

Cross References:
Part-time employees, number of - Eurostat
Part-time work, involuntary

Statistical Theme: Labour statistics

Created on Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Last updated on Monday, March 10, 2003