EBRI Issue Brief

Characteristcs of the Part-Time Work Force: Analysis of the March 1993 Current Population Survey

May 1, 1994 44  pages


  • The purpose of this Issue Brief is to present a comprehensive description of part-time work and part-time workers. The report describes trends in part-time employment; characteristics of part-time workers; health, pension, and other benefits available to part-time workers; and the advantages and disadvantages of part-time work to employers and employees. The report also identifies public policy issues stemming from the increase in the number of part-time workers.
  • The number of part-time workers increased from 10.8 million to 20.7 million between 1969 and 1993, an increase of 91.7 percent, representing 24.6 percent of the growth in the work force. Full-time employment rose 51.4 percent, from 59.2 million to 89.6 million, representing 75.4 percent of new entrants.
  • While the part-time work force increased 91.7 percent between 1969 and 1993, growth as a proportion of the total work force has been minimal, rising from 15.5 percent in 1969 to 18.8 percent in 1993, a 3.3 percentage point increase over this 24-year period.
  • Voluntary part-time workers represented 70.6 percent of all part-time workers in 1993, compared with the 29.4 percent classifying themselves as involuntary part-time workers. Between 1969 and 1993, the voluntary part-time work force grew from 9.0 million to 14.6 million, an average annual increase of 2.0 percent. The involuntary part-time work force increased from 1.8 million to 6.1 million, an average annual increase of 5.2 percent.
  • Of the 28.9 million part-time workers in 1992, 71 percent received health insurance from one or more private sources. More than one-half (52 percent) received coverage through an employment-based plan, and 19 percent through another private source. By comparison, 81 percent of full-time workers received coverage from a private source: 73 percent through an employment-based plan and 8 percent from another private source.
  • Just over one in five, or 21 percent, of part-time workers were uninsured; 16 percent of full-time workers were without health insurance. While the likelihood of a part-time worker being uninsured is 5 percentage points higher than for full-time workers, there are more full-time workers uninsured (16.4 million full-time workers were uninsured in 1992, compared with 5.9 million part-time workers).
  • Thirty percent of part-time workers reported that their employer or union had a pension or other type of retirement plan (other than Social Security) for any of its employees. Fifty-eight percent of individuals working full-time reported such coverage. Of workers indicating their employer or union sponsored a plan, 38 percent of part-time workers participated in the plan, compared with 83 percent of full-time workers.