New Heldrich Center Work Trends survey: The Joys and Disappointments of Older Part-time Workers

September 10, 2015
More than 7.5 million part-time American workers are 50 years of age or older. For the slightly more than four in five who are working part time because they do not want a full-time job, their jobs are satisfying and fulfilling. Nearly half (46%) are working full time because they want to, another 24% because they have to, and the remaining 30% for both reasons. And among those categorized by the government as “voluntary part-timers,” 80% say they are satisfied with their job, including half who say they are “very satisfied.”For older part-time workers who would like a full-time job but cannot find one — fewer than one in five of all part-time older workers — the realities are very different and more difficult. Most of these involuntary part-time workers have been searching for years without success for full-time work. Barely half are satisfied with their jobs; 8 in 10 describe their economic state as either poor or only fair.

A new Work Trends survey by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, titled The Joys and Disappointments of Older Part-time Workers, unveils the two contrasting realities of older American part-time workers. The report’s findings are based on scientifically selected samples of voluntary and involuntary workers age 50 and over. Though there are sharp differences between the voluntary and involuntary part-time, older worker, their worlds converge in some ways:

  • Both work similar hours — a median of 20 hours per week for voluntary and 25 hours per week for involuntary part-time workers.
  • Both have relatively stable jobs. Seven in ten voluntary and five in ten involuntary part-time workers have been at their job three years or more; 75% of the former and 62% of the latter believe they could stay permanently if they wanted.
  • While most work side by side with full-time workers doing the same tasks, few part-timers receive benefits: just one in four gets educational training or a 401K retirement account. One in five receives health care insurance, paid vacations, or paid sick days; one in six has a pension.
  • 60% of the voluntary and 73% of the involuntary are paid by the hour. About 10% are on salary and the rest are on commission, bonus, or self-employed.
The data presented in this report come from a national online probability sample of 944 part-time workers in the United States fielded by GfK between March 25 and April 6, 2015. The sample included 489 50+ part-time workers and has a sampling error of approximately +/- 5%. The data were weighted to Bureau of Labor Statistics parameters. Full details are in the report’s methodological appendix.Read the report.

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