A Portrait of Insecurity: The flexibility offered by part-time work comes with a cost

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The world of work is evolving in countries around the world. Having joined the workforce in the 1980s, I’ve witnessed many changes firsthand – and I foresee more changes in the decades to come. The concept of a “job for life” and the security that came with it is disappearing. According to the OECD, “non-standard” work represents one third of employment. This umbrella term includes temporary, part-time and on-call work, temporary agency work and other forms of multiparty employment relationships. Non-standard work has the advantage of giving people a degree of flexibility in choosing when and how they work, enabling more people to participate in the labor market. The disadvantages of non-standard work are that it often lacks a steady pay cheque and access to employer benefits, including retirement benefits.

The OECD’s 2019 edition of Pensions at a Glance provides an in-depth overview of developments and reforms in pension systems across OECD countries, with a chapter dedicated to non-standard working arrangements. To further highlight the retirement-related risks facing non-standard workers, Aegon has compared the retirement outlook of full-time employees in standard working arrangements with part-time workers, who are more representative of non-standard arrangements.

Read the full OECD report Pensions at a Glance 2019 or the executive summary (available in 16 languages)

OECD Pensions at a Glance 2019

Portrait of a part-time worker

Based on an analysis of data from the 2019 Aegon Retirement Readiness Survey, I would like to share this portrait of a hypothetical part-time worker and the challenges that she faces in achieving long-term financial security. Sarah is a 48-year old single woman, whose median personal income is 63% of her full-time colleague.

Our survey data of 16,000 people shows that part-time workers are twice as likely to be women (67%) than men (33%). The most common reasons for people like Sarah to work part-time are to achieve a better work-life balance (31%), not being able to find suitable full-time work (21%) and parenting responsibilities (17%).

How secure does someone like Sarah feel?

Earning less, living on your own and perhaps not being able to find full-time work may be factors contributing to the fact that 42% of part-time workers feel stressed about their long-term financial planning at least once per month.

Looking to the future, part-time workers cite declining physical health (49%) and running out of money (47%) as their top two retirement concerns. It is not surprising that only 15% are very/extremely confident that they will be able to afford their healthcare in retirement and one-in-five (21%) are confident that they will be able to retire with a lifestyle they consider comfortable.

Earning more money is something that is not generally in our control. That is why it is important to make the most of what we have and develop a budget for today and a written plan for retirement.

The picture that emerges is a call to action to raise awareness about the vulnerabilities faced by part-time workers and others in non-standard forms of work who do not have the security that comes with having a fixed income every month.

The Future of Work for All Generations by Debra WhitmanExecutive Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer, AARP and Heather E. McGowan, Future of Work Strategist

The Future of Work for All Generations by Debra Whitman, Executive Vice President and Chief Public Policy Officer, AARP and Heather E. McGowan, Future of Work Strategist

What are the obstacles faced by part-time workers?

The survey data shows us that only one-in-three part-time workers say they are always saving for retirement. It is easy to say that people should save more, but when part-time workers earn approximately two-thirds as much as full-time workers and are more likely to live alone, there may be a struggle to make ends meet. It is not surprising that, when asked the question what would encourage you to save more for retirement, 45% of part-time workers said a pay rise.

Earning more money is something that is not generally in our control. That is why it is important to make the most of what we have and develop a budget for today and a written plan for retirement. Worryingly, only one-in-ten part-time workers have written plan, and 45% have no plan at all. 

My closing thoughts are to offer strong words of encouragement to part-time workers like Sarah to start now: write down a plan and look for ways to save each month so that you get into the discipline of preparing for the future. My call to employers is to make sure that people working part-time enjoy the same eligibility to join workplace retirement savings plans as their full-time counterparts.

For the past eight years, Aegon has conducted research on how people are preparing for retirement in a survey that spans 15 countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia. I believe that we should work to strengthen the solidarity in our retirement systems so that no one gets left behind, and that vulnerable groups in society have the ability to achieve the lifetime of financial security. To learn more, please read The New Social Contract: Empowering individuals in a transitioning world

The New Social Contract: Empowering individuals in a transitioning world

Related Topics

Finance Income Inequality
New Jobs & Occupations

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Alex Wynaendts

CEO, Aegon

Alex Wynaendts was appointed CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board of Aegon N.V. on April 23, 2008. Alex has spent over 30 years in international finance and insurance. Educated in France, he began his career with ABN AMRO bank in 1984, working in the bank’s private banking and investment banking operations in both Amsterdam and London. Prior to being appointed as CEO, Alex held a number of different positions at Aegon, beginning in 1997 in Group Business Development. In particular, he established and expanded Aegon’s presence in new markets in Asia such as China, India and Japan, as well as the fast-developing region of Central and Eastern Europe. Following his appointment as CEO, Alex led Aegon through the economic crisis, ensuring the company maintained its strong capital position. He has subsequently redefined Aegon’s strategy, putting its purpose of helping people to take responsibility for their financial future at the heart of the business. Central to this has been the digital transformation of the company, which has enabled it to better meet customers’ needs and engage with millions of new customers. Mr. Wynaendts has been appointed as Independent Director of the Board of Air France-KLM S.A. since May 2016, as Independent Director of the Board of Citigroup.Inc since September 2019 and as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Puissance B.V. (not listed) since May 2017.