[OPE-L:3861] part-time and full-time labor

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 19 Dec 1996 08:31:11 -0800 (PST)

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Chai-on wrote in [OPE-L:3858]:

> If the repair is empolyed as a part-time
> laborer, its wage is to be classed as a (fluid) constant capital, only if
> the repair is not beyond the normal, average repair. But if the repair is
> above the average, it should be a deduction from the surplus-value. On the
> other hand, if he is employed as a full-time laborer, his wage should be
> counted in the normal, regular production cost as a part of the variable
> capital. He can then prevent the deduction from the surplus-value in case
> that repairs occur above the average, normal cost, and, in addition, he can
> save the capitalist's money (creating surplus-value) when the repair is done
> below the average.

There has been a trend in many branches of production in different
economies to substitute part-time laborers for full-time laborers. From a
capitalist's perspective, part-time labor can be hired at a lower cost
even where the wage-rate is the same since there can be a saving on health
and other benefits per unit of labor [boo!]. Part-time labor also
frequently allows firms greater "flexibility" in the use of labor [boo!].
Also, since part-time laborers have frequently less rights and job
security, it makes it easier for firms to increase the intensity of labor
and divide the workforce [boo!].

[There does seem to be some evidence that there is a difference in
part-time employment based on gender. It appears that so-called
"involuntary" part-time employment, i.e. where workers work part-time but
want a full-time job, is higher among men. On the other hand, a greater
proportion of women who are employed part-time seem to prefer part-time
employment, e.g. because it may allow greater time for child-rearing.
There is also a gap in terms of the percentages of part-time employees by
gender. For instance, in the US since 1973 about 1/4 of all new jobs have
been part-time with part-timers now representing about 1/6 of all workers.
About 1/4 of women employed are employed part-time whereas 1/10 of all men
are employed part-time. For international statistics on this, see Michael
J. Webber And David L. Rigby _The Golden Age Illusion: Rethinking Postwar
Capitalism_ (NY, The Guilford Press, 1996), pp. 53-58].

Turning to the question at hand, part-time workers can be productive or
unproductive of surplus value. If a worker (e.g. a skilled worker engaged
in maintenance of fixed capital) is employed 2 days/week instead of 5 this
makes no difference in terms of whether that worker's labor is productive
of surplus value. If a worker is employed one week per month instead of
the entire month, a worker can still be a productive laborer. What counts
is not the time engaged in production but the character of the labor

If we were to count all part-time employees as unproductive labor we
would, given the current statistics on part-time employment, grossly
overestimate the quantity of workers who are counted as being unproductive
and also grossly overestimate the amount of money that is paid out by
capital for unproductive labor.

In solidarity, Jerry