From this vantage point, part-time work appears to be emerging as a universal modification to the existing sexual division of labor.
Nevertheless, Drew, Emerek and Mahon in their comparative research indicate considerable differences between countries in the extent and form of part-time work between men and women and over the life cycle (1998). Employment conditions in terms of hours, wages and associated benefits also vary significantly. Researchers are therefore faced with several related theoretical questions. Why part-time work is universally gendered and under what conditions will this change What social processes account for the variation in different countries and will these differences persist or converge And finally, will change be in the direction of marginalized or more integrated forms of part-time work The objective of this paper is not to look only at similarities or only at differences across countries; instead, the paper will 'pursuit of the twin objectives of recognizing diversity and isolating major processes' to understand what the phenomenon of part-time employment means in countries with different institutional settings.
Cross-national theoretical approaches which seek to account for both similarities and differences in women's employment patterns have developed rapidly since the 1980s. Many of these studies focus on the conditions under which women are available for full- or part-time work ('labor supply'), while others pay more attention to how firms use part-timers ('labor demand'). What they all do, however, is demonstrate that analyses which attempt to reduce explanations to one or two explanatory variables, such as child care provisions or employers' flexibility strategies, are often inadequate in accounting for cross-national variation in the use of part-time work (Kahne and Giele, 1992).
Women and Part Time Work
The separation and relationship between the sphere of economic market production and domestic reproduction has formed the analytic basis underlying explanations of women's availability for part-time work. Industrialization modified the pre-existing gender division of labor within families as the dominant means of gaining a living became waged labor located in workplaces away from the home. This commoditization of women's and men's labor retained a gender division. Men's labor became increasingly associated with waged work and market production, while women remained responsible for combining household work with any paid employment which they undertook (Meesenger, 2004). It is not only those distinct tasks are located in these two sites, but also the principles of orientating and justifying behavior in them vary. Kahne and Giele (1992) argued that the public sphere is organized through a legal regulatory framework of capitalist accounting, the labor contract and bureaucratic principles of organization based on achieved characteristics. This is distinct from the private family arena, where the organizing principle is ascribed kinship relations, even where legally regulated, such as in the marriage contract. Later in this chapter we will argue that the growth in female labor market participation brings these two organizing principles into conflict, providing one stimulus for social change.