Part-time employment

Opportunities for part-time work are especially important for people who do not want to work full-time because of family circumstances, such as parents (often woman) with young children and those caring for the elderly. Indeed, recent surveys in a large number of OECD countries show that most people who work part-time do so by choice. This suggests that countries with little part-time employment could foster increased employment by policies that promote the availability of part-time jobs.


Part-time employment refers to persons who usually work less than 30 hours per week in their main job. This definition has the advantage of being comparable across countries as national definitions of part-time employment vary greatly from one country to another. Part-time workers include both employees and the self-employed.

Employment is generally measured through household labour force surveys. According to the ILO Guidelines, employed persons are those aged 15 or over who report that they have worked in gainful employment for at least one hour in the previous week or who had a job but were absent from work in the reference week. The rates shown here refer to the number of persons who usually work less than 30 hours per week in their main job as a percentage of the total number of those in employment.


All OECD countries use the ILO Guidelines for measuring employment. Operational definitions used in national labour force surveys may, however, vary slightly across countries. Employment levels are also likely to be affected by changes in the survey design, the survey scope and the survey conduct. Despite these changes, employment rates are fairly consistent over time. Information on the number of hours usually worked is mostly collected in household labour force surveys. Part-time rates are considered to be of good comparability.

There are two series breaks due a major redesign of the national labour force survey in Chile between 2009 and 2010 and in Israel between 2011 and 2012. For Israel there was a change from a quarterly to a monthly survey as well as a change in concept from “civilian” to “total” labour force.


The incidence of part-time employment for the OECD area as a whole was 16.7% in 2014. But this incidence differed significantly across countries. In Australia, the Netherlands and Switzerland, over 25% of all those in employment were working part-time, while this share was under 10% in seven Eastern European countries and below 5% in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and the Slovak Republic. In Russia this rate is also low at 4% and at 8% in South Africa.

In recent years, part-time work has accounted for a substantial share of overall employment growth in many OECD countries. For the OECD as a whole, the incidence of part-time employment increased by close to 3 percentage points between 2002 and 2014, while overall employment rates declined since the onset of the jobs crisis in late 2007. Part-time employment rates grew by 5 percentage points or more in Austria, Japan, Mexico and the Netherlands but also in Greece, Italy, Spain and Ireland that were hard hit by the crisis. The largest increase in part-time employment rates occurred in Austria (9.2 percentage points) which benefited from an overall increase in employment rates of women over the 2002-14 period. In Iceland and Poland as well as in Russia, part-time employment declined, by more than 3 percentage points in 2002-14.

The growth of part-time employment has been especially important for groups that are often under-represented in the labour force such as women – over 5 percentage points in Austria, Greece, Italy, Japan, Korea, Slovenia and Spain; youth – over 20 percentage points in Denmark, Ireland, Slovenia and Spain; and older workers – over 5 percentage points in Austria, Ireland, Italy, Mexico and Spain.


Further information

Analytical publications

Statistical publications


Table. Incidence of part-time employment

Incidence of part-time employment
As a percentage of total employment