Tuesday was my last day at my old job, (I start a new one tomorrow,) and so I’ve been reflecting on the experience for a while, a process greatly aided by all the people who inevitably ask, “Oh, why are you leaving?” Besides the fact that my new job (at least on paper) looks fantastic, the real reason I was looking for a new job in the first place all comes down to money. And in this case, hours of work was the determining factor that meant I wasn’t really making enough money at my old job anymore.
I knew it was a 3/4-time job going in, and I don’t really have any complaints about it, because I only expected to be there for one or two years anyway. It did come with benefits, so I, as a single person living alone, could afford to take it anyway, even at less than full-time. Yay, me! It was a fun job and I enjoyed it, so it was worth it. But.
Here’s the thing about 3/4-time jobs. It’s really hard to find a 10-hour/wk job to fill in just those extra hours left over, and if you take a 1/2-time job in addition instead, you’re now working 50 hours/wk, without the benefit of overtime, and unless they’re both fun and interesting jobs, it kind of sucks to have your free time cut into like that. Plus, any time you work over 30 hours at your main job isn’t really overtime, either.
When I started looking for new jobs again, I started looking at other non-profit positions and at jobs I actually have degrees in (ESL teaching). Both of these tend to be female-dominated fields. Both of these fields also seem to have a ridiculous number of part-time jobs advertised. Part of the reason I wanted to get out of ESL teaching is because it is pretty much impossible to find a full-time college-level teaching position, because all the good positions are filled at universities, so you have to wait for someone to die, and community colleges don’t seem to hire anyone full-time in that department. Benefits are expensive, after all.
And then I reviewed all the people I knew who worked at the community college I taught at in Michigan, and realized all the ones who made it their career were married women on their husbands’ insurance plans. As was the other (15-hr/wk) person at the bookstore where I just finished working. Come to think of it, pretty much all of the part-time staff in every department of that non-profit were married women. All the men who worked there had full-time positions. Hmmm.
I’m not necessarily arguing that this only applies to women, because I’m sure there could have been a male part-time employee married to a higher-paid woman with benefits in one of these situations, but it all comes back to what is essentially a requirement that the person with the less-than-full-time job be a dependent spouse, or working enough hours somewhere else to pay for all the independent insurance they need to buy on their own.
I’m sure there are a lot of people out there for whom a part-time job is the perfect answer to their needs. Maybe they can only work while their kids are in school, or are a student themselves, or do freelance work, or whatever. But it seems subtly discriminatory to me to offer positions that assume the applicants have someone else to be dependent upon in order to have the basic necessities, such as access to health and dental care, taken care of.
There are always arguments about how the organization, be it non-profit, community college, what have you, can’t afford another full-time employee. But when you start building a large work force of only 1/2-time employees with no benefits, especially ones in positions with high-level qualifications, I start to wonder whether you couldn’t get just as much work done with a smaller number of full-time employees, who could feel like they had grown-up jobs and more self-sufficiency. Of course, all of this would seem far less suspicious if the US had universal health care, and the burden wasn’t so much on the employer anyway, but that’s another post…
-posted by Dana