Hours, Scheduling, and Flexibility for Women in the U.S. Low-Wage Labor Force
Jacobs, Anna Weller
Research on women’s experiences with work schedules and flexibility tend to focus on professional women in high-paying careers, despite women's far greater prevalence in low-wage jobs. This paper seeks to contribute to the understanding of the work-hours problems faced by low-wage women relegated to part-time work. We address how work-on-demand scheduling and other features of part-time labor in the neoliberal economy limit women’s ability to make ends meet. Using data from17 in-depth interviews with women precariously employed in low-wage jobs, we identify four themes--unpredictable schedules, inadequate hours, time theft, and punishment-and-control via hours-reduction—and the problems they present. Results suggest that much-championed flexible work policies that seek to encourage women’s career advancement may have little bearing on the work-hours dilemmas faced by low-wage women workers. We conclude that social change efforts need to encompass work policies geared to low-wage workers, such as guaranteed minimum hours and increases in the minimum wage.