Published: Sep 2005

Download Paper


  • Mary Gregory
  • Sara Connolly, School of Economics and Social Studies, University of East Anglia

JEL Reference: C23, C25, C33, C35, J16, J22, J62

Working Paper

Part-time Work - A Trap for Women`s Careers? An Analysis of the Roles of Heterogeneity and State Dependence

Part-time work has been a major area of employment growth for women in the UK over recent decades. Almost half the women in employment now work part-time and two-thirds have worked part-time for some part of their working lives. Part-time employment is welcomed by many women as a means of maintaining labour market participation particularly during the childcare years. However many part-time jobs are low paid and offer little opportunity for career advancement. This leads to conflicting views of the role of part-time work: allowing a full-time career to be maintained or as a dead-end trap for women`s careers. This paper examines this issue using cohort data which follows women`s labour market involvement up to age 42. The pathways followed through full-time employment, part-time employment and non-employment are found to be complex and highly varied. Using several estimation methods (pooled multinomial logits, dynamic random effects binary choice logits and selection-corrected random effects probits) on a 20-year panel we examine the relative roles of heterogeneity in characteristics and state dependence in explaining the choice of labour market state. Our major finding is that a woman`s labour market history reveals itself as the major determinant of subsequent labour market state, dominating the role of characteristics. Part-time work serves two different functions. Women whose past history involves full-time work even in conjunction with spells of part-time work or non-employment, revert to full-time work. Women whose labour market history combines spells in part-time work with non-employment are unlikely subsequently to take up full-time work.

Part of the series

Keywords: Female Employment, Part-time Work, Persistence, Life-cycle, Dynamic Panel, Discrete Choice