One in five employees in the United States works mostly at nonstandard times--during the evening, at night, or on rotating shifts--and one in three works on the weekend. Despite their prevalence, nonstandard-hour workers are remarkably invisible, remaining largely off the radar screen of policy-makers, unions, and other groups concerned with jobs, workers, and working conditions.
Many rich countries do a far better job than the United States does of supporting workers who are balancing the competing demands of employment and parenthood. Several European countries, especially in northern and western Europe, provide extensive work/family reconciliation policies -- including paid family leave, public early-childhood education and care, and working-time measures that raise the quality and availability of reduced-hour work. The European Union puts a common floor under several of these national standards.
Four decades of steady growth in female
employment have gone a long way toward closing the job gap between women and men
in the industrialized countries. One of the most striking changes in Europe and
the United States has been the rise in employment among mothers with young
children. Nearly 85 percent of U.S. mothers employed before childbearing now
return to work before their child's first birthday. Although this is an
encouraging trend from the perspective of gender equality in the marketplace, it
is raising a new and difficult question about arrangements in the home: If
everyone is working in the market, who is caring for the children?