Living hours under pressure: flexibility loopholes in the Danish IR-model

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effect of part-time work on absolute wages. The empirical focus is wages and working hours in three selected sectors within private services in the Danish labour market – industrial cleaning, retail, hotels and restaurants – and their agreement-based regulation of working time and wages. Theoretically, this analysis is inspired by the concept of living hours, which addresses the interaction between working hours and living wages, but adds a new layer to the concept in that the authors also consider the importance of working time regulations for securing a living wage.
The paper builds on desk research of collective agreements and analysis of monthly administrative register data on wages and working hours of Danish employees from the period 2008-2014.
This analysis shows that the de facto hourly wages have increased since the global financial crisis in all three sectors. This is in accordance with increasing minimum wage levels in the sector-level agreements. The majority of workers in all three sectors work part-time. Marginal part-timers – 15 hours or less per week – make up the largest group of workers. The de facto hourly wage for part-timers, including marginal part-timers, is relatively close to the sector average. However, the yearly job-related income is much lower for part-time than for full-time workers and much lower than the poverty threshold. Whereas the collective agreement in industrial cleaning includes a minimum floor of 15 weekly working hours – this is not the case in retail, hotels and restaurants. This creates a loophole in the latter two sectors that can be exploited by employers to gain wage flexibility through part-time work.
The living wage literature usually focusses on hourly wages (including minimum wages via collective agreements or legislation). This analysis demonstrates that studies of low-wage work must include the number of working hours and working time regulations, as this aspect can have a dramatic influence on absolute wages – even in cases of hourly wages at relatively high levels. Part-time work and especially marginal part-time work can be associated with very low yearly income levels – even in cases like Denmark – if regulations do not include minimum working time floors. The authors suggest that future studies include the perspective of living hours to draw attention to the effect of low number of weekly hours on absolute income levels.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEmployee Relations
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)888-902
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2017

Number of downloads are based on statistics from Google Scholar and

No data available

ID: 178884467