Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Jane Synge




The purpose of this study is to explore the ideology of part time work and to consider the implications for women, who comprise the majority of part time workers. Ideology is examined through an analysis of the discussion and conceptualisation of part time work in business, trade unions and government. The extent, form and forum of discussion is considered, and assumptions about work, women's work and the perceived advantages and disadvantages of part time work are examined.

Three conceptions of part time work emerge, each referring to different types of work experience: "part time" as a second class employment status; "part time" as part year work; and "permanent part time work" for shorter than normal hours throughout the year. The failure to recognise different uses of the terms and the different experience of work they are, used to describe has concealed the central issues related to part time work. The absence of clear definitions and the reliance on an ideal definition has served to perpetuate the inferior working conditions of part time workers and the interests of business.

The dominant ideology is shown to have several features: part time workers are viewed as temporary, peripheral, useful and cheap. Part time work is seen as suitable for married women and other marginal persons. Serious and responsible work is associated with full-time employment, and there is an acceptance of an hierarchical and split labour force. A counter ideology, or minority view is identified in discussion. Two minority streams, with some overlapping concerns, emerge: the trade unions concern about conditions of work, and concern about equality for women, non-traditional sex-roles and alternative working hours, mainly voiced by women.

In the form in which part time work is presently conceived in dominant ideology it is unlikely to bring equality for women. The dominant ideology reinforces the maintenance of a flexible and unregulated pool of cheaper labour which serves the interests of business. Its perceived suitability for women reinforces the acceptance of sex-segregation in the labour force and maintains traditional sex-roles within the family. The expansion of permanent part time work with adequate working conditions, available for men and women, may minimise these effects.

The study illustrates the ongoing struggle for control over the labour of individual men and women in society. It also illustrates the way in which women's social roles and status, and economic status follow and accommodate to the demands of the market place.

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