The Part-Time Premium Enigma: An Assessment of the Chilean Case
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The Part-Time Premium Enigma:
An Assessment of the Chilean Case

Working part-time has been seen by some researchers, public policy advisers, and politicians as a way for women to find a balance between home and paid work (Gregory and Connolly 2008; Bardasi and Gornick 2008). However, there is no agreement on the optimal balance. Indeed, there are contrasting views on the subject. Those in favor suggest that in the absence of part-time jobs, female labor-force participation would be substantially lower (Sundström 1991; Dekker 2008). According to this belief, women, confronted with the choice between working full-time and not working at all, would opt for the latter. On the other hand, detractors in European countries assert that part-time jobs imply a waste of resources and of investments in human capital, since the many part-time working women who are highly educated generally make a downward occupational move when they switch from full-time to part-time work (Gregory and Connolly 2008; Manning and Petrongolo 2008). [End Page 29]

Furthermore, part-time jobs have adverse repercussions for the economic well-being of part-time working women, given that public social-welfare benefits, wage increases, and professional development might be scarce for these women (Leiva 2000; Warren 2008; Fernández-Kranz and others 2011; Fernández-Kranz and Rodríguez-Planas 2011). In addition, in member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), hourly earnings are lower (Manning and Petrongolo 2008) and employer-provided training less common (Gregory and Connolly 2008; Connolly and Gregory 2009) in part-time jobs than in full-time jobs. Furthermore, in those countries, though the hourly earnings gap between women and men in full-time work has been narrowing, the same is not the case for female part-time workers and males in full-time jobs (Manning and Petrongolo 2008). Part-time work among women after the birth of their first child is currently responsible for some of the pay gap between men and women (Kanji 2011).

Chile’s rate of female labor-force participation is one of the lowest in Latin American countries (CEPAL/UN-ECLAC 2011), despite female educational attainment that is similar to or higher than that of other Latin American countries (Carrillo, Gandelman, and Robano 2013). To increase female labor-force participation, the Chilean government is promoting part-time (and home-based) work for women. Although part-time work is not as extensive as in other countries, the proportion of Chilean women working part-time has tripled in the past ten years, and part-time workers now represent more than 20 percent of the female workforce (National Socio-Economic Characterization Survey (Casen), 2009).

Contreras, Puentes, and Bravo (2005) show that in Chile, the female laborforce participation rate is positively correlated with education. It is not apparent why female labor-force participation is so low. Discrimination in the labor market or, more generally, the existent gender wage gap favorable to males (Ñopo 2012; Carrillo, Gandelman, and Robano 2013) might partially explain the low female participation rate, as might cultural factors. Contreras and Plaza (2010) find that women who have internalized machista values are less likely to participate in the labor market. Despite concerns of endogeneity owing to data limitations, Contreras and Plaza (2010) find a negative relationship between female labor-force participation and conservative values. Puentes and Ruiz-Tagle (2011), using the Voz de Mujer survey, analyze the same phenomenon while controlling for possible endogenous relationships.1 [End Page 30] They find that cultural factors are not endogenously determined by a woman’s labor-participation decision; on the contrary, it seems that whether women work has little effect on cultural factors in the short term. According to their study, values develop in early childhood rather than during a woman’s working life.

Interestingly, the same 2002 survey that Contreras and Plaza (2010) used was reapplied by the Centro de Estudios Públicos and released in April 2012.2 In both 2002 and 2012, 48 percent of interviewees stated that the most desirable choice for a woman with one child of preschool age was to work parttime, while her...