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Male workers ponder part-time working

Some fathers choose part-time work to be with their families (imagepoint)

Swiss men are outpacing women in the search for part-time jobs as they take more time out from the daily grind to help to look after their children.

However, fathers still find it more difficult or are unwilling to persuade employers to allow them to spend time away from the office, particularly as they hold the majority of senior posts in Switzerland.

Official government figures reveal that 12 per cent more men took up such positions in the second quarter of this year compared with 2005. Just two per cent more women took this option in the corresponding periods.

Part-time work is becoming increasingly attractive for men who want to become more involved with their families.

According to the Handelszeitung business newspaper, the number of fathers with children under the age of 15 working part-time trebled from 15,000 to 46,000 between 1991 and 2005.

In comparison, the number of part-time working mothers rose from 280,000 to 408,000.

"More men are looking for part-time work so that they can care for their children," Daniel Huber from the advisory group Association for Families and the Workplace told swissinfo.

"There are other factors behind such a choice, such as needing time for additional qualifications or perhaps for relief from the stresses of work. But the main factor is a desire to spend more time at home.

"A few years ago we used to only see women coming to us for advice on how to combine their family and work roles. Now around 30 per cent of our clients are men."

Slow reaction

But, despite a growing awareness of the need to juggle careers with families, companies in Switzerland appear slow to react to the needs of many workers.

A government-sponsored study last year showed that firms could increase their profits by eight per cent if they put family-friendly policies into place.

But the message does not seem to be getting home, according to Bruno Schmuki, spokesman at Switzerland's largest trade union Unia.

"It is more difficult for men to work part-time to spend more time with their families, particularly if they have jobs that carry a lot of responsibility," he told swissinfo.

"They risk losing influence at work if they are not there all the time and are afraid that they will not be able to carry out their tasks well enough.

"Companies could be more creative at installing models that allow for part-time work or by creating more interesting positions that are attractive for these workers."

Men to blame?

But some of the blame must lie with men who see a part-time role at work as inferior, according to Markus Theunert, president of the Swiss forum for men and emancipation Maenner.ch.

"We have two contradictory facts: the first is that in all surveys men say yes they would like to work part-time, the second fact is that companies offering part-time jobs can't fill them," he told swissinfo. "There's a gap between attitude and actions for men.

"My explanation for that is male identity is based on high performance in each domain of life. So you are just worth 50 per cent if you work 50 per cent. And no one wants to be just a half personality."

swissinfo, Matthew Allen

Key facts

In 1990, 59.8% of families with a child under the age of 7 comprised a man working full-time and the woman not working. This "traditional" family model had shrunk to 37.3% by 2000.
The proportion of men working full-time and women part-time increased from 23.2% to 36.5%.
More men and women are working full-time, from 10.7% in 1990 up to 12.1% in 2000.
The proportion of families with both parents working part-time increased from 1.5% to 3.5%.

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