Since the end of the Great Recession in 2009, there has been speculation that the United States has been experiencing an epidemic of part-time work, intensified by legislative changes in the Health Care Reform Law, which would require employers to provide health insurance to employees who work 30 hours or more per week.
Is it true that we're becoming a nation of part-time workers, sentenced to diminished workweeks that no longer provide the full employment that the majority of us need? Unfortunately, there is evidence that an increase in part-time work appeared during the recession following the financial crisis, and persists still. Let's take a look at the reasons for this phenomenon, as well as the probability of this state of affairs becoming a permanent part of the new employment landscape.
A recessionary increase in part-time work
Recently, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco addressed this very issue, noting that the percentage of people working part-time -- defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as working between one and 34 hours per week -- increased during the recessionary years of 2007 to 2009, rising from 17%, to 20% of the workforce during that span of time. The study noted that the level remained elevated through mid-2013.
Rather than label the change as a permanent fixture of the new job environment, however, the study's authors noted that such an occurrence is common during recessions, although the persistence of the phenomenon is unusual. Using adjusted metrics, the report noted that the reduced participation of workers aged 16 to 24 years old has actually exerted downward pressure on the percentage of part-time workers, because that age group is more apt to work fewer than 35 hours per week.
"That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also."
Apocrophal words of Heinrich Heine (1821) for the 20th, 21st century
On the occasion of the trashing of the Occupy Wall Street Library: "Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen." ("That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.")
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