The Coming Part-Time Nation

More

parttimeincrease.pngNine percent of white-collar workers have added a second job in the past year, and another 19% said they intended to take a second job sometime in 2010, according to a recent survey for CareerBuilder.com, a career website.


There is a push and pull at play in the part-time phenomenon. The push is purely economic. On top of falling home prices and ransacked retirement plans, middle class breadwinners face frozen hours and wages. Families are often reluctant to move to seek jobs, so rather than migrate, they moonlight. That's one reason why the country's part-time population has doubled in the last two years, and that doesn't even count many freelance jobs that escape counting by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But there's also a pull. A part-time nation fits the modern needs of both employees and employers. For employees, elective part-time work often provides a release from the just-a-paycheck job. Demographers have observed that the Millennial Generation -- twentysomethings and people just entering their 30s -- is particularly focused on achieving not only wealth, but also fulfillment. (Whether this is something inherent to Millennials or just a fixture of youth remains to be seen.) As the jobs sector moves away from lifelong company-men toward a horizontally mobile workforce, we should expect part-time to become more mainstream.

A freelance/part-time work force is also gravy for employers. Non-staff workers don't require health care and other benefits, which can automatically increase overall compensation by 25%. Also, they aren't protected by the same workplace rules like wage theft.

News that a third of white-collar workers are considering adding a part-time job is news today, but it might be ho-hum tomorrow. Economic conditions, the character of the workforce and the tight budget of small companies is creating a perfect storm for a part-time nation.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In