Tackling low pay for part-time workers

Part-time workers in Austria earn 24.2% less per hour than full-time employees according to a study. While full-timers earn an average of €13.60 gross an hour, part-time workers earn only €10.31. This is the same, regardless of gender, for all sectors and job groups. Almost a third of part-time workers earn less than €8.70 an hour, the equivalent of a full-time monthly wage of €1,500 which unions and the Labour Ministry want to see set as the country’s minimum wage.


A recent study in Austria has shown that part-time workers have significantly lower hourly wages than full-time workers. The study comes from the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection (BMASK). It is based on an analysis of the Structure of Earnings Survey 2010 data, which is conducted every four years by Statistics Austria.

On average, part-time workers earn 24.2% less per hour than full-time workers. While full-time workers get an hourly gross rate of €13.60, the equivalent for part-time workers is €10.31. The survey is based on actual wages paid by employers and not on collectively agreed minimum wages. Around 11,000 companies with at least 10 employees provided data on the actual working time and wages of a total of 200,000 employees. The results are representative of more than 2.3 million employees in companies with 10 or more employees in the manufacturing and service sectors. Employees’ wages in the public sector and in agriculture have not been recorded.

Difference less pronounced in healthcare and education

The results of the analysis show full-time workers receive higher hourly rates than part-time workers even when they are in the same job positions. The differences are highest in management positions (27%) and among academics (20%) and lowest in service and sales positions (11%) and among office personnel (8%).

The same holds true when it comes to a person’s education. Independent of their formal qualifications, part-time workers earn less than their full-time working colleagues. The wage difference is 21% among those with the lowest level of formal education, and 24% among university graduates.

Income is directly proportional to working time. The fewer hours a part-time employee works, the lower the hourly rate. When weekly working time amounts to 30 or more hours, the difference in hourly rate drops to 15%. The difference rises to 33% for those working 10 hours or fewer a week.

The difference in wages between part-time and full-time workers cannot be explained by a lack of qualifications. The study shows qualified part-time employees are more likely to work in unskilled, low-paid jobs than their full-time equivalents, and they have little opportunity to advance their careers.

Results show that, by and large, income differences between full-time and part-time work in the manufacturing sectors are somewhat smaller than in the services sector. There are differences between sectors and job positions but, overall, part-time workers in almost all sectors and professional groups earn less than their full-time colleagues. Only in sectors with public clients, such as the healthcare and the education sectors, are income disadvantages for part-time employees smaller.

Women in part-time work

In the first quarter of 2013, 26% of all dependent employees in Austria were working part time. The figures also show almost half of all female employees were working part time, while the rate was just 8% among men. Of the 942,000 people working part time, 789,000 were women – a share of 84%.

Two-thirds of the increase in employment numbers since 2009 can be attributed to a rise in part-time work.

More than 40% of part-time workers work ‘high part-time hours’ of between 25 and 35 hours a week. Among those working ‘comparatively high hours’ in part-time work – over 30 hours a week – there is a significant gender difference. While women earn 8% less than their full-time female colleagues, men working 30 hours and more earn the same median wage as their full-time counterparts.

On average, part-time working women earn €10.21 gross an hour, while their male counterparts’ income is somewhat higher at €10.76. Women’s lower hourly income also contributes to the comparatively high gender wage gap in the country, which is about 24% and is the second-highest in the European Union. In 2013, ‘Equal Pay Day’ – the day on which men, on average, have earned the amount that women will have to work to the end of the year to match – was reached on 8 October, two days later than in 2012.

The reasons why people work part time are diverse. Around one-third of all part-time workers (34%) work reduced hours because they are looking after children, older people or other dependants. About a tenth could not find a full-time position, or worked part time because they were studying. Only 19% do not wish to work full time, and care responsibilities are a much more important factor for women than for men. Men who work in part-time jobs do so mostly for educational reasons.

Demands for improvement

Based on the results of the study, BMASK has come up with a number of ways the situation might be tackled.

First, the ministry supports the Austrian Trade Union Federation’s (ÖGB) long-standing demand of a gross monthly minimum wage of €1,500, corresponding to an hourly gross rate of €8.70. About 600,000 employees would benefit, around half of them part-time workers and about 70% of them women. The Structure of Earnings Survey shows that about 31% of all part-time workers and 11% of all full-time workers have an hourly wage below this threshold. Even more dramatically, 26% of all female dependent employees earn less than this, compared to 10% of men.

BMASK is also calling for better opportunities for employees to move into a full-time position. Companies could be obliged to tell part-time employees and the works council about newly created full-time positions. Legislation could also give an employee the right to move from a part-time to a full-time position if they were suitably qualified. This could particularly apply to part-time employees who regularly work overtime.

BMASK’s third suggestion focuses on the payment of overtime premiums for part-time workers. Due to regulations that cover time off in lieu or long reference periods, premiums are often not paid, and BMASK says such exceptions from compensation of overtime should be abolished.

Other proposals include:

  • a change in working time culture – at the moment, one in four full-time employees regularly work overtime;
  • a fairer distribution of paid and unpaid (family) work between men and women.
  • removal of the traditional disadvantages faced by part-time workers, so that they can take on management roles;
  • all-in employment contracts to be reduced or made more transparent (see AT1307021I);
  • regulations to increase male participation in childcare, perhaps through a guarantee of paternal leave after the birth of a child, and more equal division of childcare leave;
  • free access to childcare from the first birthday onwards;

Finally, BMASK points to the public services sector as role model, highlighting its relatively minor differences in full-time and part-time wages.

Bernadette Allinger, FORBA (Working Life Research Centre)

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