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87 Working Paper

Three Worlds of Working Time: Policy and Politics in Work-time Patterns of Industrialized Countries

2002 – Phineas Baxandall and Brian Burgoon


Given the underdeveloped attention to political and policy origins of aggregate work time patterns in the work-time literature, and the lack of any significant attention to work-time in the broader comparative political economy literature, this paper has pursues a broad mandate: to bring more politics into the study of work-time, and work-time into the study of politics. Using data allowing better comparison among OECD countries, we argue that study of working time needs to consider annual hours per employee and per working-age person, shaped by a range of social as well as direct work-time policies. We also argue that union interest in worktime reduction is more ambiguous than customarily supposed, with union interests likely mediated by a range of other conditions, especially female labor market participation and female union membership. Finally, we argue that attention to party systems and policy clusters should begin with consideration of Social Democratic, Liberal and Christian Democratic worlds of work time. We support these arguments with cross-section timeseries study of 18 OECD countries, and brief qualitative studies of worktime in Finland, the United States, and the Netherlands.