Working Part Time in the North: The Meaning of Place in Work-Life Experiences

The labour market is in transition, continually requiring increased employee flexibility, as exemplified through a variety of working-hour arrangements. Part-time work is one such arrangement. Sociological theories generally conceptualise part-time work, compared to full-time work, as a feminised and deviant practice. Moreover, the context beyond the workplace is often omitted, with geographic situatedness barely taken into account in the interpretation of what is meant by part-time work. Thus, while these theories are seemingly produced from «nowhere», a deconstruction reveals that they are usually centre-oriented. In this paper, it is questioned whether such centre-based theories can make sense of work-life experiences in a geographical «periphery». Based on interviews conducted with women and men working part time in Havøysund, a coastal village in northernmost Norway, it is shown that work-life experiences are deeply embedded in specific geographic locales. In other words, the local labour market and the local cultural meanings of gender and work contribute to the framing of part-time work experiences. In the Havøysund context, then, part-time work seems to be constructed as a gender neutral and normal work-time arrangement.

Keywords: Finnmark, gender, part time, normality, place, work experiences