The partners of men with flexible working hours have higher incomes

A new study suggests that the partners of men who have access to flexible working earn significantly more than those who have more rigid working cultures. The study of German couples, conducted by Dr Laura Langner at the University of Oxford’s Department of Sociology, explored changes in incomes once at least one partner is able to begin flexible working. The study suggests that once men started working flexible hours, their wives’ hourly wages increased significantly, particularly if they were mothers (14.2 percent after four years). The husband’s own hourly wages also increased by 7.4 percent over the following four years.

Dr Laura Langner, who authored the paper published earlier this month in the journal Work, Employment and Society, said: ‘The results suggest that men may use flexible working hours as an alternative to part-time work to support their wives’ careers. The couple is in a win-win situation – both partners’ hourly wages increase when the man enters the flexible arrangement. It also tells us that employers can play an important role in supporting not just their employee’s but also the whole family’s work-family compatibility.’

The study analysed west German couples entering flexible work between 2003-2011 using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP). A flexible working hours contract was defined in the report as one in which the employee is able to determine when they work during the day and week. However, this  situation only seems to apply to couples in which the male partner starts working flexible hours. If women start working flexible hours, they only benefit if they work at least 30 hours. They do not benefit at all if they are mothers and even lose out if they combine work hour flexibility with working part-time. Similarly, the positive effect for their non-flexible male partners is less pronounced.

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