More working hours for part-timers

Growth Fund grant for the More Hours Works! programme

Tightness of the labour market is a social problem that is becoming increasingly noticeable in society. Because of staff shortages, children are occasionally unable to attend school or day care, and the healthcare sector is having great difficulty chipping away at the long waiting lists that have formed. One of the reasons for these massive shortages is the number of part-time employees in the Netherlands. Through the More Hours Works! (Meer uren werkt!) programme, an initiative of UU's Future of Work platform and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, a consortium of organisations aims to find ways to get part-timers to work more hours. The National Growth Fund has already promised 30 million euros (on a conditional basis) for carrying out the programme. If the programme proves effective, this will be followed by a second investment of 45 million euros. 

Moeder werkt met kinderen aan haar zijde

To begin with, the programme will focus on three sectors: healthcare and well-being, primary education and child care. These sectors have the most part-timers. Part-timers make up 69% of the workforce in health care and well-being, 66% in primary education and even 84% in child care. Tanja van der Lippe, professor of Sociology of Households and Labour Relations and one of the initiators of the programme, says: “We have chosen these three sectors because of the considerable staff shortages. And these shortages are unlikely to go away if no measures are implemented. Moreover, these sectors directly impact people working in other sectors. For example, entire classes of pupils may be sent home when their teacher is sick, and parents with young children may have to work fewer hours if daycare is not an option.”

"Some of the social norms in the Netherlands can be difficult to break, such as the expectation that mothers should only work part-time."

Bad mothers

More hours works! specifically focuses on all employees: men, women, non-binary, with or without a partner (of the same or a different sex), with or without children, etc. However, most part-timers are women, which is why the greatest focus is on them. The programme wishes to remove visible and invisible barriers in the social environment, at industrial organisations and in the part-timers’ environment. Anne van der Put, a sociologist who is also involved in the programme, says: “Gender stereotypes, for example, can be a barrier. Some of the social norms in the Netherlands can be difficult to break, such as the expectation that mothers should only work part-time. Women with young children who work more than three days a week have to be careful not to be labelled ‘bad mothers’. We aim to do something about such gender stereotypes as well.” 

Cultural shift

More hours works! is an innovative programme, thanks to its comprehensive, long-term approach, its focus on different groups of part-timers, its evidence-based interventions and its ability to take secondary effects into account (such as the time available for informal care). The consortium hopes the programme will kick-start a cultural shift in the Netherlands, resulting in part-timers working more hours.

"We work to find solutions by linking academic insights to professional practice in the field."

Consortium

The programme is being developed together with a consortium of partners in the sectors of health care and well-being, primary education and child care, employers’ and employees’ organisations, partners from different sections of society and knowledge institutions. Consortium manager Thomas Martens has already gained experience with similar broad collaborations at Future of Work: “Thanks to the research carried out at Future of Work, we already have a tradition of continuous collaboration with partners from different sections of society. We work to find solutions by linking academic insights to professional practice in the field.”