Average hours worked per week declining

Hours worked by full-time and part-time converging

In ‘Hours polarization revisited,’ Jeannine Usalcas presents a study of trends in hours worked over the last decade. She found that the average workweek for Canadian employees has fallen from 36.7 hours to 36.5 hours.

Earlier statistics tied the number of hours worked per week closely to employment as either a full-time or a part-time worker. Work during the 1990s correlated higher income with long hours and full-time employment, and lower income with short hours and part-time employment. However, the new study notes more recent reductions in average hours are not the result of less full-time employment. The percentage of the workforce employed part-time, after growing strongly to a peak of 18 per cent in 1993, eased off somewhat later in the decade but has returned to the 18 per cent range recently.

Men are working fewer hours. Their average workweek dropped by 0.6 hours to 39.6 hours with the largest change coming in extremely long hours over 48 in a week. Women, in contrast, worked more hours, increasing by 0.6 on average to 33.1. There, the single largest move was to 40 hours per week. In 1997, 26.5 per cent of women worked this long. That grew to 28.8 per cent in 2006.

Younger workers between 15 and 24 saw their workweek grow by 0.5 hours to 28.8. Core age workers from 25 to 54 worked the same time, 38.3 hours per week. Finally, older workers aged 55 and over worked 0.5 hours less at 36.3 per week.

Another interesting change has been the reduction in the extreme workweeks. Between 1997 and 2006, the percentage of employees working 49 hours or more fell from 11.3 per cent to 9.2 per cent. At the other end of the scale, the percentage working from one to 14 dropped from 6.6 per cent to 5.5 per cent. The same pattern is displayed in almost every age range: significantly fewer employees work either very many or very few hours and many more work standard full-time hours between 35 and 40.

Some of the factors that the article posits for the changes include the influence of working mothers, growth in the service sector and increasing levels of education. Women with children aged up to six have shown a huge increase in the number of hours per week by 1.6 to 33.2 and those with children six to 15 increased their work by 1.2 hours to 33.9.

Eighty-five percent of new jobs created between 1997 and 2006 were in the service sector. Industries such as accommodation and food, education, and retail trade have the shortest average hours of work, all under 35 hours per week. And, finally, 80 per cent of new employment growth was in white-collar occupations, with the leaders being natural and applied sciences, health, and social sciences and education. Hours in natural and applied sciences average about 40 while the other two job families average below 35. Occupations requiring less education, primary and manufacturing, for instance, show less growth or even a decrease.

Source: ‘Hours polarization revisited’ by Jeannine Usalcas from the March 2008 issue of Perspectives (Catalogue No. 75-001-X) is available on the Statistics Canada website www.statcan.ca/english/freepub/75-001-XIE/75-001-XIE2008103.pdf

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