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Maeve O’Sullivan

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Dr Christine Cross, Dr Tom Turner, Dr Jonathan Lavelle
Working Title of Thesis: 
An examination of the prevalence of part-time working by older, female workers in the Irish private sector

The central research question posed in this study is why do so many older female workers in the Irish private sector work part-time? This question is posed in the context of the fact that part-time jobs have traditionally been characterised as being rooted in the secondary labour market, viewed as consisting of low level, unskilled jobs which require no specific training. These jobs are often inferior in nature, attract poorer conditions and rates of pay, offer fewer promotional prospects and provide less security of employment compared with full-time positions. Given these negative connotations, it seems paradoxical that the typical part-time worker, i.e. women, young people and older adults, would ‘choose’ part-time work. Although much research on female labour market participation has focused on the impact of gender and motherhood on occupations, pay and benefits, training and development in addition to career progression, there is a dearth of studies on the influence of age. Despite recent research on the quality of part-time jobs and the main sectors which employ part-time workers, an examination of part-time female labour force participation by older women has not been explored to any great extent. Previous research has focused on the gender pay gap between male and female employees with little attention given to the impact of age on preferred working arrangements, choice of occupations and availability of good-quality part-time jobs.

This study draws on Irish employer/employee matched datasets from 2008 and 2009 with initial findings suggesting significant occupational downgrading among part-time older female workers in the Irish private sector. This study draws on labour market segmentation, human capital and occupational segregation explanations for the vertical and horizontal segregation of women in part-time occupations, given that the two types of occupational segregation continue to be significant features of the Irish labour market.

Initial findings suggest significant occupational downgrading among part-time older female workers in the Irish private sector. Given factors such as Ireland’s ageing population, labour-market participation trends, economic climate and prevalence of part-time working arrangements, particularly by older female workers, it is imperative that we better understand the extent of occupational downgrading prevalent among this cohort. This research builds upon and adds value to findings from previous research including the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA, 2011). The findings from this research could significantly impact policy and practice towards older workers in Irish society and organisational life and help identify some of the obstacles women face in the private sector in attaining higher-skilled occupations.

Publications/presentations to date: 

Irish Academy of Management 2014 conference presentation (September 2014). Session Chair for Strategic Management track at the Irish Academy of Management 2014 conference.

Details of any scholarships/funding received (NOT USED): 
Kemmy Business School Scholar
female part-time workers, labour market segmentation, occupational downgrading, occupational segregation
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