[We’re pleased to welcome Peter Berg of the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations at Michigan State University. Dr. Berg served as guest editor alongside Gerhard Bosch and Jean Charest on ILR Review‘s Special Issue on International Comparisons of Working Time.]
Working time arrangements have become another source of inequality in American society. The once standard 8-hour day and 40-hour workweek that emerged and reigned throughout much of the 20th century have given way to an increasing variety of working-time arrangements. Flexible schedules, in which hours can vary daily or weekly, and nonstandard work arrangements, such as fixed term, on-call, temporary, or part-time, are widely used at the workplace. While professionals and the highly skilled workers may have some control over the flexibility in their working time, the vast majority of Americans have little or no control. In non-union workplaces, the employer decides the work schedule, and it is common for low wage workers to work under zero-hour contracts that make no guarantees of weekly working hours and require employees to work on very short notice with unpredictable schedules. These types of zero-hour contracts not only make it difficult to plan one’s family life but make it difficult to count on a reliable income.
This special issue highlights the diversity of working time arrangements internationally. The introductory article establishes a framework for analyzing the diversity of working time across countries, whereas the other articles demonstrate empirically the effects of different working time arrangements across a variety of institutional environments. This special issue makes clear the significant behavioral and economic impacts of working time arrangements such as forms of short and long part-time work, 35-hour workweeks, and working time accounts. Moreover, it shows the importance of national policies and employee voice in ensuring that working time arrangements balance the interests of employers and employees.
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