Are workers with disabilities more likely to be constrained in their working hours?

Publication Date03 April 2018
AuthorRicardo Pagan
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour,Industrial/labour relations,Employment law
Are workers with disabilities
more likely to be constrained in
their working hours?
Ricardo Pagan
Department of Applied Economics, University of Malaga, Malaga, Spain
Purpose The mismatch between desired and actual hours of work per week is common among the
employed in many countries and has important effects on the adequate functioning of labour markets.
The purpose of this paper is to investigate the likelihood of being underemployed, matched or overemployed
in terms of hours worked for workers without and with disabilities in Germany by using longitudinal data.
Design/methodology/approach Data are taken from the German Socio-Economic Panel (1985-2013) for a
large sample of salaried workers aged 16-64. The authors have used a Random-effects ordered probit model
to estimate the impact of being disabled on the likelihood of suffering any type of working time mismatch.
Additionally, the authors have estimated a Tobit Random-effects modelon the number of hours of
underemployment and overemployment.
Findings Females with disabilities are more likely to be overemployed than females without disabilities.
In addition, only females with disabilities experience a lower number of hours of underemployment than
females without disabilities. As for overemployment, both males and females with disabilities are more likely
to report a higher number of hours of overemployment as compared to their non-disabled counterparts.
Originality/value This paper therefore shows the importance of combating and reducing the hours of
overemployment for all workers in general and for males and females with disabilities in particular. A large
longitudinal data set has been used in the paper and it is the first attempt to estimate the determinants of
being underemployed, matched and overemployed for workers without and with disabilities.
Keywords Germany, Disability, Working time mismatch, Working time preferences
Paper type Research paper
Apart from remuneration, working time is perhaps the second most relevant aspect of
working conditions that all workers take into account when they accept a new job or decide
to remain in their present job (Clerk, 1985). The decision on how many hours individuals
desire to work is a vital issue and has important effects on other day-to-day activities such
as, for example, leisure, personal care, education, and sleep (Pagan, 2013; Anand and
Ben-Shalom, 2014). The standard labour supply model states that individuals maximise
their utility by freely choosing the optimal amount of hours of work (Pindyck and
Rubinfeld, 2001). Under perfectly competitive markets with rationale agents and full
information, actual and preferred hours worked should be the same (Constant and
Otterbach, 2011). However, individuals are restricted in their choice of work hours by
employer preferences, labour legislation, international markets and other institutional
factors (Rosen, 1969). Moreover, asymmetric information about individualsproductivity,
income inequality, wage rigidity and job insecurity have also been found in the existing
literature as main reasons for the existence of working hour restrictions (e.g. Kahn and
Lang, 1992, 1996; Bell and Freeman, 1995; Landers et al., 1996; and Stewart and
Swaffield, 1997). For example, the EUs Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC) establishes a
limit to weekly working hours which must not exceed 48 hours on average, including any
overtime. Some firms do not offer jobs with low hours of work because of the fixed costs of
workers (Böheim and Taylor, 2004), or some individuals change jobs to attain their utility
maximising combination of hours and earnings (Altonji and Paxson, 1992). As a result,
there are mismatches between a workers actual and preferred number of hours worked
Employee Relations
Vol. 40 No. 3, 2018
pp. 529-548
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/ER-03-2017-0064
Received 17 March 2017
Revised 16 October 2017
17 November 2017
Accepted 17 November 2017
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Workers with
(i.e. working hours constraints), and thus creating time-related underemployment and
overemployment (Tam, 2010). According to the International Labour Organization (1998),
time-related underemployment exists when the hours of work of an employed person are
insufficient in relation to an alternative employment situation in which the person is willing
and available to engage. Although there is no international definition for time-related
overemployment, Golden (2004) points out that this exists when there are workers employed
who are willing but unable to reduce their hours of paid work at their current (or a
comparable) job even if they are prepared to accept proportionally lower current of future
income. For example, around 9 and 10 per cent of all workers were overemployed and
underemployed in 2010 in the UK, respectively (Tam, 2010). According to Bond and
Galinsky (2006), in the US more than half of all workers reported a preference to work fewer
hours, down to 35 hours per week from the average of 43 hours. These working hour
constraints are often interpreted as an indicator of the functioning of the labour market
because market frictions or imperfections prevent workers from attaining feasible jobs
with preferred hours of work ( Johnson, 2011). We have to take into account that within
the existing literature (particularly in the USA) the terms underemployment and
overemployment can take other forms as, for example, when there is a mismatch between
ones qualification and ones job requirements or status. For the purpose of this paper, we
are only interested in the possible mismatch between desired and actual hours of work
per week.
According to Otterbach (2010), understanding working hour constraints is particularly
importantfor policy makers, employers, and tradeunions because these restrictionsserve as a
measure of well-being in the workplace and overall life satisfaction. Furthermore,
Lockes (1969) discrepancy theory points out that fewer discrepancies between workers
preferencesand job requirements will leadto positive work outcomes (e.g.higher productivity
and commitment,better health, job securityand greater levels of subjective well-being).On the
other hand, the inability to balance work and family increases job mobility and absenteeism,
and reduces work performance, commitment and morale (e.g. Böheim and Taylor, 2004;
Wooden et al., 2009; Otterbach, 2010; Wunderand Heineck, 2013). The link between working
hours and health status has also been widely investigated by other authors such as, for
example, Caruso (2006), Eriksen (2005), Iwasaki et al. (2006), and Artazcoz et al. (2009), who
have found how longer working hours increase fatigue, stress, hypertension, alcohol
consumption, smoking, diabetes, cardiovascular risk and disease. Following Barrett (2010),
there are some disadvantaged groups (e.g. ethnic minorities, older people, and people with
disabilities) for whom the existence of working hour constraints can be even more relevant
because of the important barriers they face with regard to entering, remaining in and
progressing within employment. People with disabilities often need flexibility in work
schedules or some discretion over when to start and stop work each day to deal with health
concerns, therapy schedules, transportation, and personal care (Mitra and Stapleton, 2006;
Schur et al., 2013). However, workers with disabilities are more likely to be in elementary
occupations (i.e. lower-paying service and blue-collar jobs) that do not provide flexible hours
(Schuret al., 2013), and often have the highest rates of underemployment (Tam, 2010).
In contrast andaccording to Schur (2003), if employersdo not hire people with disabilities into
traditional full-time jobs (due to either personal prejudice and/or a fear of accommodation
costs), those who wantto work may be forced to take and remain in contingent and part-time
jobs, and thus suffering from overemployment.
The aim of this study is to analyse the determinants of being underemployed, matched
and overemployed for workers without and with disabilities in Germany. Previous studies
(e.g. Oi, 1991; Pagan, 2013, 2014a, b; Anand and Ben-Shalom, 2014) have found that people
with disabilities need more time to obtain medical care, engage in rehabilitation activities, or
even to accomplish everyday activities (e.g. personal care, cleaning, shopping, cooking,

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