Constrained choices: Understanding the prevalence of part-time work among low-paid workers in the UK
30 November 2022
This is the fifth output from the Resolution Foundation which contributes to the Young person’s future health inquiry. It discusses the concentration of part-time work among low-paid workers (including young people), and explores the reasons why low-paid workers work part-time, and the extent to which low-paid workers experience agency over their working hours. It draws on the findings from four focus groups carried out in October 2022. The long-run trend in developed countries is for average hours of work to fall, so we should view workers choosing to work fewer hours (which, for some, will mean working part-time) as being part of what progress looks like. But there is a concentration of part-time work among lower-paid workers. This paper combines quantitative analysis with evidence from four focus groups to give policy makers a clearer sense of how to navigate these competing considerations. Our conclusion is that policy should target some of the drivers of shorter-hour working amongst lower earners – namely those that constrain workers’ choices – while recognising both the real benefits it can bring and the complexities of lives that sit behind decisions about how – and for how long – we work.