Working-Time Configurations: A Framework for Analyzing Diversity Across Countries

TitleWorking-Time Configurations: A Framework for Analyzing Diversity Across Countries
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsBerg, Peter, Bosch, Gerhard, and Charest, Jean
JournalIndustrial & Labor Relations Review
Pagination805 - 837
Keywordslabor market, pay, wage inequality, work schedule, workday, working-time, workweek, zero-hour contract

[Excerpt] Working-time practices across the developed world have exploded with diversity during the past few decades. The once standard 8-hour day and 40-hour workweek that emerged and reigned throughout much of the 20th century have given way to an increasing variety of working-time arrangements. Flexible schedules, in which hours can vary daily or weekly, and nonstandard work arrangements, such as fixed term, on-call, temporary, or part-time, are widely used at the workplace. In addition, we have witnessed the growth of zero-hour contracts that make no guarantee to provide workers with weekly working hours or a reliable income, while requiring employees to work on very short notice with very unpredictable schedules; annualized hours contracts that allow for work hours to vary over a year; and working-time accounts that allow employees to bank hours worked over a set weekly standard and to then draw on these accounts for paid time off.As a vital element of the employment relationship, working time is deeply linked to changes in the labor market and intertwined with pay and rewards. As such, the duration and scheduling of work hours are closely connected to some of the most pressing economic issues, including wage inequality. In the United States, zero-hour contracts with unpredictable schedules foster unpredictable incomes. Nonstandard work arrangements restrict hours of work and often pay lower per hour rates than full-time jobs pay, contributing to the low-wage sector of the economy. Nonstandard work arrangements also restrict access to full-time employment and benefits such as paid vacations, sick leave, and premium pay for working at unsocial hours . These alternative arrangements make it difficult for individuals to move up the economic ladder and thereby further inequality within the labor market. Moreover, stagnating or declining wages for the vast majority of the workforce pushes people to work more hours to maintain income. This increase in the labor supply further dampens wage levels, exacerbating the problem.