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Employers' Demand for Almost-Full-Time Workers: The Diffusion of Employment Practices across Firms

English title Employers' Demand for Almost-Full-Time Workers: The Diffusion of Employment Practices across Firms
Applicant Rost Katja
Number 165959
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Soziologisches Institut Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline Sociology
Start/End 01.10.2016 - 31.01.2020
Approved amount 354'954.00
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All Disciplines (4)

Social geography and ecology
Science of management

Keywords (7)

Organizational Sociology; Simulation; Social Networks; Part-Time Work; Diffusion; Complex Systems; Work-Life Balance

Lay Summary (German)

In der Schweiz lässt sich seit 1990 ein Trend in der Nachfrage von Unternehmen nach ‚Fast-Vollzeit‘ Arbeitskräften (80-95% Anstellung) beobachten - 2012 sind dies bereits 8% aller ausgeschriebenen Arbeitsstellen. Das Projekt geht der Frage nach, wie dieser Trend zu erklären ist.
Lay summary

Trends in der Nachfrage von Unternehmen nach Teilzeit-Arbeitskräften sind bislang selten untersucht worden. Noch gar nicht erforscht ist der sich seit 1990 beschleunigende Trend in der Nachfrage nach ‚Fast-Vollzeit‘ Arbeitskräften. Arbeitgeber haben bei der Förderung dieser Art von Teilzeitar­beit eine ausserordentlich aktive Rolle gespielt. Dies deutet auf einen Diffusionsprozess hin. Vor diesem Hin­tergrund untersucht die vorliegende Studie folgende drei Fragen: (1) Welche Typen von Unter­neh­men haben zuerst ‚Fast-Vollzeit‘ Stellen angeboten, mithin die Innovation hervorgebracht? (2) Wel­ches sind die Gründe dafür, dass andere Unternehmen den innovativen Firmen gefolgt sind (Diffu­sion)? (3) Wie sieht die Dynamik in der Verbreitung von ‚Fast-Vollzeit-Beschäftigungspraktiken aus?

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 26.09.2016

Responsible applicant and co-applicants



Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Prof. Dr. Thorsten Teichert, Chair of Marketing and Innovation, University of Hamburg Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Dr. Mark Mizruchi, Department of Sociology, University of Michigan United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Dr. Heike Solga, Social Sciencce Center Berlin and Free University Berlin Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Dr. Ben Jann, Department of Sociology, University of Berne Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Prof. Dr. David Strang, Professor of Sociology, Cornell University United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Dr. Ben Klemens, Census Bureau, Washington D.C. United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Dr. Francesca Francavilla, Poverty Reduction and Social Development Group, OECD France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
146515 Transforming the Swiss Job Market Monitor into a Scientific-Use-Survey 01.06.2013 Research Infrastructure
187333 Monitoring Task and Skill Profiles in the Digital Economy: Employers' Changing Skill Demand and Workers' Career Outcomes 01.05.2020 NRP 77
170401 Stellenmarktmonitor Schweiz (SMM) 01.01.2017 Research Infrastructure


Part-time work in Switzerland, already high by international standards, has rapidly expanded in recent years. Trends in employers’ demands for part-time workers, which are seldom examined, show a dramatic and unusual tendency. Since 1990 advertisements for “almost-full-time” workers (80-95%) have grown from almost nothing to 8% of job ads, eventually outpacing ads for standard part-time work (50-79%), which dropped from over 11% to less than 8% of all ads (Swiss Job Market Monitor (SJMM)). In contrast, in 2013, even among new hires, standard part-time jobs were significantly more common (14.3%) than almost-full-time jobs (8.0%) (Swiss Labor Market Survey). The rapid rise of almost-full-time vacancies contrasted with the more moderate rise in incidence begs the question: Why have employers taken such a surprisingly active, and accelerating, role in fostering almost-full-time work? Such a dramatic accelerating trend suggests the beginning of a diffusion process, a process in which firms make choices not only in response to their individual conditions, but also in response to each other. The proposed project investigates: (a) which types of firms first offered almost-full-time positions; (b) the reasons why other firms followed suit; and (c) the dynamics of how these practices spread.There are several striking and concurrent changes in Switzerland that could be related to the original innovation of almost-full-time work and to its propagation. First, firms face increasing competition for scarce workers in health care, engineering, and the sciences. In addition, as cantons have deregulated business hours, firms increasingly compete for customers with more flexible service. There has also been a dramatic shift in ideas around work-life balance-an idea that has been promoted by EU policy makers, the Swiss Office for Equal Opportunity, and even the Pope. The adoption of almost-full-time work might be a response to changing ideas around work-life balance, but it could also be a response to firms’ needs to offer longer business hours or to recruit scarce workers. This study will examine whether growing demand for almost-full-time workers is related to these changes and whether and how the practice spread across firms.This study proceeds in three phases, with each phase having a distinct methodological advantage and building on the prior. Phase I explores whether certain groups of firms (by industry-geography or occupation-geography) were more likely to innovate or adopt, and which industry-geography or occupation-geography characteristics are associated with early innovation or rapid adoption. This is done by fitting macro diffusion curves, and then predicting the rate of innovation and adoption using group characteristics (e.g. an occupation-geography’s scarcity of labor). Phase II explores whether certain types of vacancies are more likely to be offered as almost-full-time. To explain the acceleration of job ads for almost-full-time work, we test whether there is evidence for a process of contagion between firms and which firm and vacancy characteristics reduce thresholds of adoption. Phase II does this by using a multi-level regression model. Estimates and diffusion curves from Phase I are used in Phase II validation. Phases I and II cannot determine the importance of where initial innovation occurred, nor the potential end-point of this trend (e.g. clustered niches or a cascade to universal adoption). Phase III does this by integrating estimates from Phases I and II into a dynamic simulation of the spread of almost-full-time work.This project is not only innovative by virtue of the fact that it addresses a new phenomenon, tests various types of economic and cultural contagion, and uses new methodologies to study dynamic diffusion processes. It also informs the public policy debate on the importance of part-time employment for gender-equality and work-life balance-both topics of increasing public interest.