In celebration of Labor Day, we are pleased to provide you with the latest issue of ILRReview! This Special Issue on International Comparisons of Working Times includes articles on topics such as the 35-hour work week in France, the effect of the Great Recession on working times in Germany, work-life conflict in the lives of retail employees and more. The issue is available to read online for free for the next 30 days. You can access the Table of Contents by clicking here.
The introduction to the Special Issue entitled “Working-Time Configurations: A Framework for Analyzing Diversity across Countries” was written by Peter Berg of Michigan State University, Gerhard Bosch of the University Duisburg-essen, and Jean Charest of the University of Montreal.
When one looks beyond the United States, it becomes clear that very different realities about working time exist. Some emerging economies, such as Singapore and China, are not deregulating working time but are instead seeking greater regulation of the standard working week to protect their workers from extreme working hours and to introduce more efficient forms of work organization (Lee, McCann, and Messenger 2007; also see Cao and Rubin’s article in this issue). In other developed countries, standard working hours have been reduced to less than 40 hours (Cabrita and Galli da Bino 2013); for example, France established a statutory workweek of 35 hours in 2000. In many European countries, workers possess the legal right to request variable work hours. Workers also have more choice across short working-time practices that provide prorated benefits and equal pay per hour. In some European countries, workers are able to take paid and unpaid leaves during certain phases of their work lives, and labor unions and employers alter working-time practices through negotiation. Countries with lower wage inequality and a smaller low-wage sector than the United States are associated with shorter working hours for workers across the income distribution (Bell and Freeman 2001). The main reason for this is the reduced pressure on low-wage workers to work more hours and the higher marginal tax rates for increasing work hours in countries with low wage inequality (Bosch and Lehndorff 2001).
The articles in this issue reflect the range of realities. They highlight the diversity of working-time practices across countries and the implications of these practices for workers and firms. The articles focus on a number of countries and are in some cases explicitly comparative. They examine a number of working-time practices including weekly working hours, flexible work schedules, and part-time work. In their analyses, the authors show how the institutional context can have differential effects on working-time practices and working-time outcomes. For example, annualized hours contracts and working-time accounts can be positive forms of flexibility for workers to vary work hours and to take time off when they need it. These practices, however, can also provide a means to shift risk to employees when they lack control over their schedules and cannot access time banked in their accounts.
Click here to read “Working-Time Configurations: A Framework for Analyzing Diversity across Countries” and here to access the Table of Contents of ILRReview‘s July issue. Want to get all the latest from ILRReview sent directly to your inbox? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!