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Part-Time Work & How to Make It Work For You

In August 2014, TD Economics released a report about the growth of part-time work in Canada.[i] It states since the start of 2014, approximately 40% of new jobs created in Canada were full-time positions and 60% were part-time. The report goes on to reassure readers approximately 80% of all jobs remain full-time positions; however, there are reasons to believe the share of part-time work will increase. For one, our aging population is increasing its participation rate in the labour force, putting off retirement while scaling back the amount of hours on the job. For another, the growth in female participation in the labour forcer over the decades has also increased the propensity of part-time work.
What does the Ontario data tell us about part-time work in our province?
Incidence of part-time work in Ontario
Employment grows at an uneven pace. Chart 1 illustrates the number of jobs in Ontario, by full- and part-time status.
Chart 1: Number of employed, full- and part-time, Ontario, 1976-2013 (‘000s)

Full-time employment slows down and declines during recessions (1982, 1991 and 2009) while part-time employment moves forward at a steady pace. Part-time jobs as a proportion of all jobs has grown from 13.5% in 1976 to 19.2% in 2013 (Chart 2).
Chart 2: Part-time jobs as a percent of all employment, Ontario, 1976-2013

A larger proportion of women work part-time (26% in 2013, very close to the 25% in 1976) while the proportion of males working part-time has doubled since 1976, from 6.5% to 12.6%. The females’ share of the part-time workforce has dropped only slightly from 71% in 1976 to 66% in 2013.
Chart 3: Incidence of part-time employment, females and males, Ontario, 1976-2013

When the incidence of part-time work is examined by age, one finds that a far greater proportion of youth are working part-time, yet youth are making up a smaller share of all part-time workers. The reason for this mathematical irregularity is because older workers are making up a much larger share of the workforce. Chart 4 shows the share of each age group that is working part-time while Table 1 provides the numbers and the percentages of all part-time by age group, comparing 1976 to 2013.
Thus, in 1976, one quarter of employed youth (25.3%) worked part-time and they made up almost half (46%) of the part-time workforce. By 2013, more than half of employed youth (52.1%) worked part-time, but they made up slightly over a third (36%) of the part-time workforce, exactly equal to the share of part-timers aged 45 years and older.
Chart 4: Incidence of part-time employment, by select age groups, Ontario, 1976-2013

The likely reason for the far greater proportion of youth working part-time is because many more of them are continuing their education for a longer period of time and so their availability for full-time work is reduced; and part-time work helps pay for their education.
Table 1: Number of part-time workers and share of part-time workforce, by select age groups, Ontario, 1976 and 2013
  1976 2013
Number Percent Number Percent
15-24 years old 233,500 46% 474,000 36%
25-44 years old 147,500 29% 371.000 28%
45 years and older 123,900 25% 473,100 36%
TOTAL 504,900 100% 1,318,100 100%
Incidence of involuntary part-time work in Ontario
Not everyone working part-time wishes to work part-time. Roughly a third of part-time workers would rather work full-time. There is hardly any difference in the proportion of males and females who are working part-time and would rather work full-time. (The data for this variable only started to be collected in 1997.) The incidence of involuntary part-time work rose sharply during the recession and has stayed at a higher level for several years now.
Chart 5: Incidence of involuntary part-time employment, males and females, Ontario, 1997-2013

The hypothesis that more youth choose part-time work because of their schooling and older workers wish to continue to work but with few hours appear borne out when one examines involuntary part-time work by age. Youth aged 15-24 years of age are least likely to work part-time involuntarily, and those aged 45 years and older are the next least likely.
Chart 6: Incidence of involuntary part-time employment, by select age groups, Ontario, 1997-2013

What is troublesome is the higher level of involuntary part-time work among those in their prime working age years: among those aged 25-44 years old who work part-time, fully 43% would rather work full-time. When broken down by gender, 40% of females aged 25-44 years of age who are working part-time would rather be working full-time, as would over half of males in this same group (52%).
Reasons for choosing part-time employment
Some people do indeed choose to work-part and their reasons for doing so vary. We will examine one age group, those who have a high incidence of involuntary part-time work, to understand why some choose to work part-time.
Table 2: Reasons for voluntary part-time work, 25-44 year olds, males and females, Ontario, 2013
 Illness 5% 3%
 Caring for children 3% 30%
 Other personal or family responsibilities ---- 3%
 Going to school 18% 9%
 Personal preference 16% 12%
 Other voluntary 4% 3%
Women are far more likely to be choosing to work part-time because of child-rearing responsibilities. 30% of all women aged 24-44 years of age work part-time for this reason; for males, this is hardly a consideration. Instead, 18% of them in this age group who work part-time do so because of school obligations. Roughly equal and smaller proportions of males (16%) and females (12%) choose to work part-time as a personal preference.
Roughly one in five workers in Ontario is working in a part-time job.
  • Youth aged 15-24 years of age are most likely to be working part-time primarily because they are going to school (69%); a quarter are working part-time involuntarily.
  • Older workers are often choosing to work part-time as a personal preference (33% of those aged 45-55 years old, 65% of those aged 55 years and older).
  • Workers aged 25-44 years of age who work part-time are most likely to wish to work full-time: 52% of males and 40% of females.
  • Depending on your age and your family responsibilities, you may well decide to choose part-time work.
  • Many people of prime working age do not choose to work part-time, and if you are one of them, you are not alone.

[i] TD Economics, Part-Time Nation: Is Canada Becoming a Nation of Part-Time Employed? August 21, 2014. <>
What this information means for job seekers and career choices:
  • Part-time work can be a stepping stone to full-time work by gaining work experience, work contacts, skills, and having recent work on your resume.
  • Part-time work means flexibility and choices to work on your career in other ways; taking courses, attending networking events, and having more time for a well-researched, strategic job search for full-time work.
  • You might be able to turn a part-time job into a full-time job; read how in these articles
  • Some occupations and industries don’t work full-time hours throughout the entire year, yet make great money and benefits when they do. (E.g. Construction)
  • If contracts and part-time work are the future, embrace the challenge and see yourself as a “consultant” who works in a variety of locations. For many, this is appealing if they get bored easily.
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