People work a wide variety of hours - from those working a few hours a week to people who work very long hours (e.g. over 60 hours a week). A useful and longstanding approach to summarising this spectrum of hours is to categorise people as either 'full-time' or 'part-time'.
When interpreting employment and hours levels and movements in the context of full-time and part-time work it is important to be aware of:
- how the headline estimates of full-time and part-time employment are derived, and
- other approaches to understand full-time and part-time work that are also possible from Labour Force Survey data.
Employed full-time - people who usually work 35 hours or more a week (in all jobs), and those who, although usually working less than 35 hours a week, worked 35 hours or more in the reference week.
Employed part-time - people who usually work less than 35 hours a week (in all jobs), and did so in the reference week (or were not at work in the reference week).
All employed people, regardless of their working arrangements (e.g. casuals, independent contractors, working variable hours), are classified as either full-time or part-time.
Using an hours-based threshold (i.e. 35 hours) ensures an objective, consistent and comparable approach to classifying all employed people as either full-time or part-time.
However, no single measure can reflect all dimensions of full-time and part-time work. For example, in monitoring people's usual working patterns, looking at full-time / part-time status according to hours usually worked may be more useful. In addition, in particular industries or occupations there are often specific standards for what constitutes a full-time or part-time worker. For example, in some occupations 40 hours may be a standard full-time week, while in others it may be 30 hours a week.
The most common hours that people usually work are 38 or 40 hours a week.