Too much or too little work? Couples’ actual and preferred employment patterns and work hours mismatches in Europe

Nadia Steiber, Barbara Haas

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

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The most widely cited European data on work hours mismatches at the couple level date back to the 1990s. The general gist of analyses of these data was that ‘overworked’ dual-earner couples frequently preferred work hours reductions, especially those with childcare responsibilities. This study uses more recent data from the European Social Survey (2010-12) to update the available evidence on actual and preferred breadwinner models and on the occurrence and determinants of work hours mismatches among couples in Europe. The focus is on differences between demographic groups and countries in the degree to which cohabiting couples are either underemployed (working fewer hours than desired) or overemployed (working more hours than desired). Our analyses show that about one third of couples are underemployed, while only one in ten report being overemployed. We identify low education and the presence of children below school age as risk factors for underemployment, whereas highly educated women and fathers of teenagers tend to be overemployed. In a comparison of 16 European countries, we find couples in Greece, Ireland, Slovenia, and Spain to be most at risk of experiencing underemployment – in the countries that were most strongly affected by the recession. The effects of children on the experience of hours mismatches are found to vary across Europe – a particularly strong association of children below school age with parental underemployment is observed in Central and Eastern Europe, Finland, and Germany and a particularly weak one in Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, and Sweden.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269 - 292
JournalZeitschrift für Familienforschung
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 502042 Environmental economics
  • 502053 Economics
  • 502027 Political economy
  • 502030 Project management
  • 504030 Economic sociology

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