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Flexible schedules and shift work: replacing the `9-to-5' workday?

Flexible work hours have gained in prominence, as more than a quarter of all workers can now vary their schedules; however, there has been little change in the proportion who work a shift other than a regular daytime shift

Traditionally, much of the American labor force has worked in a structured environment, with the work schedule following a set pattern--what many people have termed the "9-to-5" workday. Recent studies show that employers are beginning to recognize that many workers prefer schedules that allow greater flexibility in choosing the times they begin and end their workday. Consequently, increasing numbers and proportions of full-time workers in the United States are able to opt for flexible work hours, allowing workers to vary the actual times they arrive and leave the work place. For some workers, however, the nature of their jobs requires that they work a schedule other than a regular day shift, what may be termed an "alternative shift."(1) Examples of such alternative shift workers are police officers, emergency room physicians, and assembly-line workers at a factory.

In contrast to the increasing proportion of workers with flexible work schedules, the incidence of shift work has not changed since the mid-1980s. If not for the sizable job gains in service occupations, the overall proportion of workers on shift work would have edged down in recent years.

Recent data on flexible work hours and shift work are from information collected in the May 1997 supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS).(2) This article uses that supplement to examine both the incidence and trends in flexible work hours and alternative shift work and, also, the relationship between the jobs in which people work and the prevalence of these digressions from the more traditional "9-to-5" workday.

Flexible work schedules

In 1997, more than 25 million workers, or 27.6 percent of all full-time wage and salary workers varied their work hours to some degree. Note that flexible schedule arrangements for many workers are probably informal, as indicated by data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employee Benefits Survey (EBS), in which employers provide information about employee access to various types of work-related benefits. The latest EBS data, from 1994-97, show that less than 6 percent of employees have formal flexible work schedule arrangements.(3)

CPS data show that the proportion of workers on flexible work schedules--either formal or informal--has more than doubled since 1985, when such data were first collected.(4) The increase in flexible work schedules since then has been widespread across demographic groups. The following tabulation shows the percent of workers, by age and race and Hispanic origin, who work flexible schedules:
 1985 1991 1997

Total, 16 years and older 12.4 15.1 27.6
 Men 13.1 15.5 28.7
 Women 11.3 14.5 26.2
 Hispanic origin 8.9 10.6 18.4
Race and Hispanic origin:
 White 12.8 15.5 28.7
 Black 9.1 12.1 20.1
 Hispanic origin 8.9 10.6 18.4


Although there has been relatively little difference in the proportions of men and women with flexible schedules during the 1985-97 period, whites have been more likely than blacks or Hispanics to have flexible work schedules. (See table 1.)

Table 1. Flexible schedules of full-time wage and salary workers by selected characteristics, May 1997
 All workers

 Total With flexible schedules

 Characteristic Number Percent

Total 16 years and older 90,549 25,031 27.6
 16 to 19 years 1,640 339 20.7
 20 years and older 88,909 24,692 27.8
 20 to 24 years 8,462 1,923 22.7
 25 to 34 years 25,208 7,161 28.4
 35 to 44 years 26,755 7,781 29.1
 45 to 54 years 19,596 5,355 27.3
 55 to 64 years 7,778 2,129 27.4
 65 years and older 1,110 344 31.0
 16 to 24 years 10,102 2,262 22.4
 25 to 54 years 71,559 20,296 28.4
 55 years and older 8,888 2,473 27.8

Race and Hispanic origin

White 75,683 21,698 28.7
Black 10,884 2,191 20.1
Hispanic origin 9,635 1,769 18.4

Marital status

Never married 21,721 5,523 25.4
Married, spouse present 53,369 15,358 28.8
Other marital status 15,459 4,150 26.8

Presence and age of children

Without own children under 18 55,251 14,824 26.8
With own children under 18 35,298 10,208 28.9
 With own children 6 to 17 19,852 5,542 27.9
 With own children under 6 15,446 4,666 30.2

 Men

 Total With flexible schedules

 Characteristic Number Percent

Total 16 years and older 52,073 14,952 28.7
 16 to 19 years 1,050 177 16.9
 20 years and older 51,023 14,774 29.0
 20 to 24 years 4,968 1,111 22.4
 25 to 34 years 14,721 4,231 28.7
 35 to 44 years 15,434 4,730 30.6
 45 to 54 years 10,806 3,118 28.9
 55 to 64 years 4,431 1,334 30.1
 65 years and older 662 251 38.0
 16 to 24 years 6,018 1,288 21.4
 25 to 54 years 40,961 12,078 29.5
 55 years and older 5,094 1,585 31.1

Race and Hispanic origin

White 44,495 13,186 29.6
Black 5,323 1,068 20.1
Hispanic origin 6,283 1,147 18.3

Marital status

Never married 12,746 3,180 24.9
Married, spouse present 32,756 10,077 30.8
Other marital status 6,571 1,695 5.8

Presence and age of children

Without own children under 18 31,266 8,596 27.5
With own children under 18 20,807 6,356 30.5
 With own children 6 to 17 10,820 3,211 29.7
 With own children under 6 9,986 3,146 31.5

 Women

 Total With flexible schedules

 Characteristic Number Percent

Total 16 years and older 38,476 10,079 26.2
 16 to 19 years 590 161 27.4
 20 years and older 37,886 9,918 26.2
 20 to 24 years 3,494 812 23.2
 25 to 34 years 10,486 2,931 27.9
 35 to 44 years 11,321 3,051 26.9
 45 to 54 years 8,790 2,237 25.4
 55 to 64 years 3,347 796 23.8
 65 years and older 448 93 20.7
 16 to 24 years 4,084 973 23.8
 25 to 54 years 30,598 8,218 26.9
 55 years and older 3,794 888 23.4

Race and Hispanic origin

White 31,188 8,512 27.3
Black 5,561 1,123 20.2
Hispanic origin 3,352 622 18.5

Marital status

Never married 8,975 2,343 26.1
Married, spouse present 20,613 5,281 25.6
Other marital status 8,888 2,456 27.6

Presence and age of children

Without own children under 18 23,985 6,228 26.0
With own children under 18 14,491 3,851 26.6
 With own children 6 to 17 9,032 2,331 25.8
 With own children under 6 5,459 1,520 27.8


NOTE: Data relate to the sole or principal job of full-time wage and salary workers who were at work during the survey reference week and exclude all self-employed persons, regardless of whether or not their businesses were incorporated. Data reflect revised population controls used in the Current Population Survey effective with the January 1997 estimates.

Occupations. To some degree, these differences reflect the varying occupational distributions of each of the worker groups. Generally, jobs with higher frequencies of flexible hours are those in which work can be conducted efficiently, regardless of the workers' start and end times. For instance, flexible work hours are most common among workers in executive, administrative, and managerial occupations, and for those in sales occupations--42.4 percent and 41.0 percent, respectively. (See table 2.) The incidence of flexible work hours is lower for groups of workers in occupations in which the nature of the work dictates that it begin and end at set times, for example, nurses, teachers, police, firefighters, and certain manufacturing operations.

Table 2. Flexible schedules of full-time wage and salary workers by occupation and Industry, May 1997

[Numbers in thousands]
Occupation and Industry All workers

 Total With flexible
 schedules

 Number Percent

Occupation

Managerial and professional 27,384 10,651 38.9
 specialty
 Executive, administrative, 13,469 5,705 42.4
 and managerial
 Professional specialty 13,915 4,947 35.5
 Mathematical and computer 1,308 772 59.0
 scientists
 Natural scientists 507 327 64.5
 Teachers, college and university 494 320 64.7

Technical, sales, and 25,779 7,828 30.4
 administrative support
 Technicians and related support 3,376 1,040 30.8
 Sales occupations 9,001 3,687 41.0
Sales workers, retail and 3,165 951 30.0
 personal services
Administrative support, 13,402 3,101 23.1
 including clerical

Service occupations 9,313 1,906 20.5
 Private household 308 125 40.5
 Protective service 1,891 314 16.6
 Service, except private household
 and protective 8,855 1,934 21.8
 Food service 2,777 630 22.7
 Health service 1,466 258 17.6
 Cleaning and building service 2,000 326 16.3
 Personal service 871 254 29.1

Precision production, craft, 11,519 2,023 17.6
 and repair
 Mechanics and repairers 3,863 708 18.3
 Construction trades 4,069 718 17.7
 Other precision production, 3,587 596 16.6
 craft, and repair
 Operators, fabricators, 14,812 2,156 14.6
 and laborers
 Machine operators, assemblers, and
 inspectors 6,813 702 10.3
 Transportation and material moving 4,351 961 22.1
 Handlers, equipment cleaners,
 helpers, and laborers 3,648 494 13.5
Farming, forestry, and fishing 1,742 466 26.8

Industry

Private sector 75,612 21,795 28.8
 Goods-producing industries 25,925 6,033 23.3
 Agriculture 1,492 448 30.0
 Mining 541 122 22.6
 Construction 5,389 1,218 22.6
 Manufacturing 18,503 4,245 22.9
 Durable goods 11,179 2,572 23.0
 Nondurable goods 7,324 1,673 22.8

Service producing industries 49,687 15,763 31.7
 Transportation and public utilities 6,088 1,669 27.4
 Wholesale trade 3,969 1,281 32.3
 Retail trade 12,111 3,745 30.9
 Eating and drinking places 3,135 987 31.5
 Finance, insurance, and real estate 5,857 2,096 35.8
 Services 21,662 6,971 32.2
 Private households 391 148 37.7
 Business, automobile, and repair 5,060 1,607 31.8
 Personal, except private household 1,627 522 32.1
 Entertainment and recreation 1,051 397 37.8
 Professional services 13,497 4,286 31.8
 Forestry and fisheries 36 11 (1)

Government 14,937 3,236 21.7
 Federal 2,828 977 34.5
 State 4,125 1,214 29.4
 Local 7,983 1,046 13.1

 Men

 Total With flexible
 schedules

 Number Percent
Occupation

Managerial and professional 13,882 6,407 46.2
 specialty
 Executive, administrative, 7,213 3,251 45.1
 and managerial
 Professional specialty 6,668 3,156 47.3
 Mathematical and computer 887 549 61.9
 scientists
 Natural scientists 353 240 68.0
 Teachers, college and university 330 224 68.0

Technical, sales, and 9,992 3,613 36.2
 administrative support
 Technicians and related support 1,724 611 35.4
 Sales occupations 5,106 2,315 45.3
Sales workers, retail and 1,428 464 32.5
 personal services
Administrative support, 3,162 687 21.7
 including clerical

Service occupations 4,754 831 17.5
 Private household 21 16 (1)
 Protective service 1,619 254 15.7
 Service, except private household
 and protective 4,665 986 21.1
 Food service 1,441 263 18.3
 Health service 205 26 12.9
 Cleaning and building service 1,252 208 16.6
 Personal service 216 63 29.0

Precision production, craft, 10,506 1,861 17.7
 and repair
 Mechanics and repairers 3,672 658 17.9
 Construction trades 3,996 707 17.7
 Other precision production, 2,839 497 17.5
 craft, and repair
 Operators, fabricators, 11,388 1,815 15.9
 and laborers
 Machine operators, assemblers, and
 inspectors 4,359 521 12.0
 Transportation and material moving 4,064 914 22.5
 Handlers, equipment cleaners,
 helpers, and laborers 2,965 379 12.8
Farming, forestry, and fishing 1,552 426 27.4

Industry

Private sector 45,023 13,284 29.5
 Goods-producing industries 19,458 4,640 23.8
 Agriculture 1,265 373 29.5
 Mining 473 106 22.4
 Construction 4,974 1,086 21.8
 Manufacturing 12,747 3,074 24.1
 Durable goods 8,148 1,944 23.9
 Nondurable goods 4,599 1,131 24.6

Service producing industries 25,565 8,644 33.8
 Transportation and public utilities 4,518 1,21 5 26.9
 Wholesale trade 2,854 979 34.3
 Retail trade 6,812 1,988 29.2
 Eating and drinking places 1,758 497 28.2
 Finance, insurance, and real estate 2,288 1,028 44.9
 Services 9,094 3,434 37.8
 Private households 42 27 (1)
 Business, automobile, and repair 3,319 1,118 33.7
 Personal, except private household 749 227 30.3
 Entertainment and recreation 619 231 37.3
 Professional services 4,336 1,820 42.0
 Forestry and fisheries 29 11 (1)

Government 7,050 1,668 23.7
 Federal 1,621 535 33.0
 State 1,856 606 32.7
 Local 3,573 527 14.8

 Women

 Total With flexible
 schedules

Occupation and industry Number Percent

Occupation

Managerial and professional 13,502 4,245 31.4
 specialty
 Executive, administrative, 6,255 2,454 39.2
 and managerial
 Professional specialty 7,247 1,791 24.7
 Mathematical and computer 421 223 53.0
 scientists
 Natural scientists 154 87 56.2
 Teachers, college and university 164 95 58.2

Technical, sales, and 15,787 4,215 26.7
 administrative support
 Technicians and related support 1,651 429 26.0
 Sales occupations 3,895 1,372 35.2
Sales workers, retail and 1,737 487 28.0
 personal services
Administrative support, 10,240 2,414 23.6
 including clerical

Service occupations 4,559 1,075 23.6
 Private household 287 109 37.8
 Protective service 272 60 22.2
 Service, except private household
 and protective 4,190 947 22.6
 Food service 1,336 366 27.4
 Health service 1,261 232 18.4
 Cleaning and building service 749 117 15.7
 Personal service 655 191 29.2

Precision production, craft, 1,01 3 162 16.0
 and repair
 Mechanics and repairers 192 50 26.3
 Construction trades 74 12 (1)
 Other precision production, 748 99 13.3
 craft, and repair
 Operators, fabricators, 3,424 342 10.0
 and laborers
 Machine operators, assemblers, and
 inspectors 2,454 181 7.4
 Transportation and material moving 287 47 16.3
 Handlers, equipment cleaners,
 helpers, and laborers 683 114 16.7
Farming, forestry, and fishing 190 41 21.6

Industry

Private sector 30,589 8,511 27.8
 Goods-producing industries 6,466 1,393 21.5
 Agriculture 227 74 32.8
 Mining 68 16 (1)
 Construction 415 132 31.8
 Manufacturing 5,756 1,170 20.3
 Durable goods 3,031 629 20.7
 Nondurable goods 2,725 542 19.9

Service producing industries 24,122 7,118 29.5
 Transportation and public utilities 1,570 454 28.9
 Wholesale trade 1,115 302 27.1
 Retail trade 5,299 1,757 33.2
 Eating and drinking places 1,377 490 35.6
 Finance, insurance, and real estate 3,569 1,068 29.9
 Services 12,568 3,537 28.1
 Private households 350 120 34.4
 Business, automobile, and repair 1,740 489 28.1
 Personal, except private household 878 295 33.7
 Entertainment and recreation 432 167 38.5
 Professional services 9,161 2,465 26.9
 Forestry and fisheries 7 -- --

Government 7,887 1,568 19.9
 Federal 1,208 442 36.6
 State 2,270 608 26.8
 Local 4,410 519 11.8


(1) Percent not shown where base is less than 75,000.

NOTE: Data relate to the sole or principal job of full-time wage and salary workers who were at work during the survey reference week and exclude all self-employed persons, regardless of whether or not their businesses were incorporated. Data reflect revised population controls used in the Current Population Survey effective with the January 1997 estimates. Dashes represent zero.

As stated, the unique occupational distributions of the various demographic groups affect the overall proportion of workers on flexible work schedules within these respective groups. For example, as can be seen above, flexible work hours are considerably more prevalent among whites than either blacks or Hispanics. At first glance, this is not surprising because whites are most likely to be in managerial and professional specialty occupations, in which flexible hours are most common. Furthermore, blacks and Hispanics are highly represented in the category of operators, fabricators, and laborers. Because of the nature of the work, historically, this category is one that fails to lend itself to the practice of flexible schedules.

Because flexible schedules appear to be closely associated with particular occupations, it is worth investigating whether the recent increases in the proportion of workers with flexible work schedules reflect an increase in employment in occupations with high occurrences of flexible work schedules or an increase in the availability of flexible work hours across occupations. A shift-share analysis was applied to determine the portion of the increase that was due to changes in occupational employment and the portion that was due simply to an increased incidence of flexible work hours. Less than 3 percentage points of the total increase were a result of shifts in occupational employment. This suggests, therefore, that the majority of the increase was spurred by the increased incidence of flexible work schedules within occupations; indeed, this phenomenon occurred in nearly every occupational category.

Race. In order to estimate how much of the difference in the rate of flexible work schedules between blacks and whites is accounted for by differences in occupations, a standardization was performed. This process showed that if blacks had the same occupational distribution as whites (at the most detailed level of occupational classification), then the rate of black workers on flexible work schedules would have been 20.5 percent, instead of 20.1 percent; the difference between the rates for whites and blacks would have been 7.9 percentage points instead of 8.6 percentage points. A similar analysis was performed in which the white rates of flexible work by occupation were applied to the black occupational distribution. Results show that, in each job category, if blacks were as likely as whites to be able to vary hours, then the overall black rate would rise to 24.4 percent, or 4.3 percentage points higher. This would have reduced the overall difference between blacks and whites to 4.3 percentage points. While even at the detailed level there may be differences in jobs held by blacks and whites, these findings suggest that factors other than occupational employment contribute to the disparity in access to flexible schedules.

Industry. To a lesser degree, the prevalence of flexible work schedules also varied by industry. These schedules were more common among private sector employees than among those in the public sector (28.8 percent versus 21.7 percent) in 1997. In the public sector, Federal government employees (34.5 percent) were more likely than their counterparts in State government (29.4 percent) or local government (13.1 percent) to have a flexible schedule. The rate for local government workers reflects the fact that local governments provide services that are often rigidly scheduled. More than half of those employed in local governments work in the field of education, in which the nature of the work for most employees prohibits flexibility (only 7.6 percent of workers in education, the largest component of local government employment, could vary work hours). Within private industry, the proportion of workers with flexible schedules was higher in service-producing industries (31.7 percent) than in goods-producing industries (23.3 percent), reflecting the more rigid work hours in manufacturing, construction, and mining.

Shift work

Although most workers report usually working between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., more than 15 million, or 16.8 percent of all full-time wage and salary workers, worked alternative shifts. The most prevalent alternative shifts were the evening shift (accounting for 4.6 percent of all full-time wage and salary workers), for which work hours typically fall between 2 p.m. and midnight, and irregular shifts (3.9 percent) for which employers schedule shifts to fit the needs of the business for a particular time. Other shifts worked included night shifts (3.5 percent) for which work hours fall between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m., and rotating shifts (2.9 percent) that change periodically from days to evenings or nights. (See table 3.)

Table 3. Shift usually worked by full-time wage and salary workers by selected characteristics, May 1997

[Percent distribution]
 Alter-
 native
 shift
 workers
 Regular
 Total workers daytime
 Characteristic (in thousands) schedule Total

 Age and sex

Total 16 years and older 90,549 82.9 16.8
 16 to 19 years 1,640 66.4 32.9
 20 years and older 88,909 83.2 16.5
 20 to 24 years 8,462 75.7 23.7
 25 to 34 years 25,208 82.8 16.7
 35 to 44 years 26,755 84.0 15.8
 45 to 54 years 19,596 85.2 14.6
 55 to 64 years 7,778 84.8 15.0
 65 years and older 1,110 83.8 16.2
 16 to 24 years 10,102 74.2 25.2
 25 to 54 years 71,559 83.9 15.8
 55 years and older 8,888 84.7 15.1

 Men 52,073 80.5 19.1
 Women 38,476 86.1 13.7

 Race and Hispanic origin

White 75,683 83.6 16.1
Black 10,884 78.5 20.9
Hispanic origin 9,635 83.6 16.0

 Marital status and presence
 and age of children

Men:
 Never married 12,746 77.1 21.9
 Married, spouse present 32,756 82.5 17.3
 Other marital status 6,571 77.3 22.1

 Without own children under 18 31,266 79.8 19.6
 With own children under 18 20,807 81.6 18.3
 With own children 6 to 17 10,820 82.8 17.1
 With own children under 6 9,986 80.3 19.7

Women:
 Never married 8,975 79.8 19.8
 Married, spouse present 20,613 89.2 10.7
 Other marital status 8,888 85.4 14.5

 Without own children under 18 23,985 85.0 14.7
 With own children under 18 14,491 87.9 12.0
 With own children 6 to 17 9,032 88.4 11.4
 With own children under 6 5,459 87.1 12.9

 Alternative shift workers

 Evening Rotating
 Characteristic shift Night shift shift

 Age and sex

Total 16 years and older 4.6 3.5 2.9
 16 to 19 years 12.5 5.0 4.0
 20 years and older 4.5 3.5 2.9
 20 to 24 years 7.6 5.3 3.3
 25 to 34 years 4.7 3.5 3.2
 35 to 44 years 3.9 3.4 2.9
 45 to 54 years 3.9 3.1 2.6
 55 to 64 years 3.8 2.7 2.5
 65 years and older 3.8 2.1 2.0
 16 to 24 years 8.4 5.3 3.4
 25 to 54 years 4.2 3.3 2.9
 55 years and older 3.8 2.6 2.4

 Men 5.0 4.0 3.5
 Women 4.1 2.8 2.2

 Race and Hispanic origin

White 4.3 3.2 2.9
Black 6.5 5.5 3.2
Hispanic origin 5.4 3.2 2.1

 Marital status and presence
 and age of children

Men:
 Never married 7.0 4.4 3.2
 Married, spouse present 3.9 3.6 3.6
 Other marital status 6.6 5.1 3.6

 Without own children under 18 5.5 4.0 3.3
 With own children under 18 4.2 4.0 3.7
 With own children 6 to 17 3.5 3.7 3.9
 With own children under 6 5.0 4.3 3.5

Women:
 Never married 6.2 4.0 3.2
 Married, spouse present 3.1 2.3 1.8
 Other marital status 4.5 2.9 2.0

 Without own children under 18 4.6 2.6 2.4
 With own children under 18 3.4 3.2 1.8
 With own children 6 to 17 2.7 3.4 1.9
 With own children under 6 4.5 2.8 1.6

 Alternative shift workers

 Employer-
 arranged
 irregular Other
 Characteristic Split shift schedules shifts

 Age and sex

Total 16 years and older 0.4 3.9 1.4
 16 to 19 years .9 8.8 1.6
 20 years and older .4 3.8 1.4
 20 to 24 years .3 6.3 .9
 25 to 34 years .4 3.6 1.3
 35 to 44 years .4 3.7 1.4
 45 to 54 years .3 3.3 1.4
 55 to 64 years .6 3.3 2.1
 65 years and older .3 4.7 3.3
 16 to 24 years .4 6.7 1.0
 25 to 54 years .4 3.6 1.4
 55 years and older .6 3.5 2.2

 Men .4 4.4 1.7
 Women .3 3.1 1.0

 Race and Hispanic origin

White .4 3.9 1.4
Black .4 4.0 1.4
Hispanic origin .3 3.8 1.2

 Marital status and presence
 and age of children

Men:
 Never married .4 5.9 1.1
 Married, spouse present .4 3.9 1.9
 Other marital status .5 4.2 2.0

 Without own children under 18 .4 4.6 1.6
 With own children under 18 .5 4.1 1.8
 With own children 6 to 17 .3 3.8 1.8
 With own children under 6 .6 4.5 1.8

Women:
 Never married .2 4.6 1.3
 Married, spouse present .3 2.3 .9
 Other marital status .3 3.6 1.1

 Without own children under 18 .3 3.6 1.2
 With own children under 18 .4 2.4 .8
 With own children 6 to 17 .4 2.3 .7
 With own children under 6 .3 2.6 1.0


NOTE: Data relate to the sole or principal job of full-time wage and salary workers who were at work during the survey reference week and exclude all self-employed persons, regardless of whether or not their businesses were incorporated. Data reflect revised population controls used in the Current Population Survey effective with the January 1997 estimates.

As with flexible work schedules, the nature of the work is a major determinant of whether the worker is scheduled on an alternative shift. Hence, shift work is highly prevalent within certain occupations and industries and almost entirely absent from others. Alternative shifts were most common among occupations that provide services that are needed at all hours--such as protective service (55.1 percent) and food service (42.0 percent)--and among those employed as operators, fabricators and laborers (27.0 percent). (See table 4.) In contrast, teachers, construction workers, and executives and administrators were among the least likely to work an alternative shift.

Table 4. Shift usually worked by full-time wage and salary workers by occupation and Industry, May 1997
[Percent distribution]

 Alter-
 native
 shift
 workers
 Total workers Regular
Occupation and Industry (in Thousands) daytime
 schedule Total

Occupation

Managerial and professional 27,384 90.4 9.4
 specialty
 Executive, administrative,
 and managerial 13,469 91.7 8.1
 Professional specialty 13,915 89.1 10.7
 Mathematical and computer 1,308 94.9 4.6
 scientists
 Natural scientists 507 94.0 6.0
 Teachers, college and 494 86.1 13.9
 university
Technical, sales, and
 administrative support 25,779 86.2 13.5
 Technicians and related 3,376 80.4 19.2
 support
 Sales occupations 9,001 81.4 18.4
 Sales workers, retail and
 personal services 3,165 70.9 28.5
 Administrative support, 13,402 91.0 8.8
 including clerical

Service occupations 9,313 62.1 37.1
 Private household 308 83.2 16.8
 Protective service 1,891 44.4 55.1
 Service, except private
 household and protective 8,855 71.4 28.0
 Food service 2,777 57.3 42.0
 Health service 1,466 69.5 30.1
 Cleaning and building 2,000 72.2 27.1
 service
 Personal service 871 73.2 26.4

Precision production, craft, 11,519 86.2 13.4
 and repair Mechanics and 3,863 85.3 14.2
 repairers
 Construction trades 4,069 95.3 4.4
 Other precision production,
 craft, and repair 3,587 77.0 22.8
 Operators, fabricators, and 14,812 72.5 27.0
 laborers
 Machine operators,
 assemblers, and inspectors 6,813 73.4 26.2
 Transportation and material 4,351 69.2 30.4
 moving
 Handlers, equipment
 cleaners, helpers, and 3,648 74.8 24.6
 laborers
Farming, forestry and fishing 1,742 93.8 5.9

Industry

Private sector 75,612 82.3 17.4
 Goods-producing industries 25,925 84.1 15.6
 Agriculture 1,492 93.1 6.7
 Mining 541 74.6 25.4
 Construction 5,389 95.9 3.7
 Manufacturing 18,503 80.2 19.4
 Durable goods 11,179 83.0 16.8
 Nondurable goods 7,324 76.0 23.5

Service producing industries 49,687 81.3 18.3
 Transportation and public 6,088 73.8 25.8
 utilities
 Wholesale trade 3,969 89.7 10.1
 Retail trade 12,111 71.1 28.4
 Eating and drinking places 3,135 51.9 47.2
 Finance, insurance, and 5,857 94.8 5.1
 real estate
 Services 21,662 83.9 15.6
 Private households 391 78.9 21.1
 Business, automobile, 5,060 86.0 13.3
 and repair
 Personal, except private 1,627 74.9 24.3
 household
 Entertainment and 1,051 63.9 35.1
 recreation
 Professional services 13,497 86.0 13.7
 Forestry and fisheries 36 -- --

Government 14,937 86.1 13.8
 Federal 2,828 85.4 14.4
 State 4,125 86.1 13.7
 Local 7,983 86.4 13.6

 Alternative shift workers

Occupation and Industry Evening Night Rotating
 shift shift shift

Occupation

Managerial and professional 1.7 1.3 1.7
 specialty
 Executive, administrative,
 and managerial 1.4 .7 1.7
 Professional specialty 2.0 1.7 1.6
 Mathematical and computer .2 .3 .6
 scientists
 Natural scientists .9 1.0 --
 Teachers, college and .6 .5 1.0
 university
Technical, sales, and
 administrative support 3.5 2.1 2.6
 Technicians and related 5.6 3.8 3.7
 support
 Sales occupations 3.6 1.1 4.4
 Sales workers, retail and
 personal services 6.7 1.7 7.3
 Administrative support, 3.0 2.3 1.0
 including clerical

Service occupations 10.8 6.5 5.4
 Private household 1.4 .8 .7
 Protective service 11.3 13.2 16.3
 Service, except private
 household and protective 11.0 5.3 3.3
 Food service 17.1 5.0 6.2
 Health service 10.8 9.4 3.3
 Cleaning and building 14.9 7.3 1.2
 service
 Personal service 5.1 5.0 4.7

Precision production, craft, 4.1 4.0 2.4
 and repair Mechanics and 4.2 4.7 2.7
 repairers
 Construction trades .6 .9 .8
 Other precision production,
 craft, and repair 7.9 6.7 4.0
 Operators, fabricators, and 7.7 7.4 4.3
 laborers
 Machine operators,
 assemblers, and inspectors 10.1 8.4 4.6
 Transportation and material 4.6 4.1 4.7
 moving
 Handlers, equipment
 cleaners, helpers, and 7.0 9.3 3.4
 laborers
Farming, forestry and fishing -- -- --

Industry

Private sector 4.7 3.5 2.9
 Goods-producing industries 5.1 4.5 2.6
 Agriculture .3 .3 .7
 Mining 4.8 2.3 12.5
 Construction .4 .2 0.3
 Manufacturing 6.9 6.2 3.2
 Durable goods 6.9 5.0 2.3
 Nondurable goods 6.9 7.9 4.5

Service producing industries 4.5 3.0 3.1
 Transportation and public 4.2 3.3 4.5
 utilities
 Wholesale trade 2.3 2.6 1.1
 Retail trade 7.5 3.6 5.9
 Eating and drinking places 16.3 5.4 8.7
 Finance, insurance, and 1.0 .7 .5
 real estate
 Services 4.3 3.3 2.1
 Private households 1.9 2.2 2.3
 Business, automobile, 4.0 3.6 1.5
 and repair
 Personal, except private 7.7 4.1 3.4
 household
 Entertainment and 9.7 2.8 4.4
 recreation
 Professional services 3.6 3.3 2.0
 Forestry and fisheries -- -- --

Government 4.2 3.2 3.0
 Federal 4.3 5.3 1.8
 State 4.7 3.1 2.6
 Local 3.9 2.4 3.5

 Alternative shift workers

 Employer-
Occupation and Industry Split arranged Other
 shift irregular shifts
 schedules
Occupation

Managerial and professional .3 2.9 1.6
 specialty
 Executive, administrative,
 and managerial .2 2.7 1.3
 Professional specialty .4 3.0 1.9
 Mathematical and computer -- 1.8 1.6
 scientists
 Natural scientists -- 1.5 2.5
 Teachers, college and 2.9 4.0 4.9
 university
Technical, sales, and
 administrative support .3 3.8 1.1
 Technicians and related .2 4.2 1.5
 support
 Sales occupations .3 7.0 1.9
 Sales workers, retail and
 personal services .6 10.6 1.5
 Administrative support, .2 1.6 .6
 including clerical

Service occupations 1.0 6.3 2.2
 Private household 1.5 8.2 4.3
 Protective service .9 7.9 5.6
 Service, except private
 household and protective 1.0 5.9 1.4
 Food service 1.8 10.4 1.3
 Health service .6 4.6 1.1
 Cleaning and building .6 2.2 .7
 service
 Personal service .8 6.3 4.5

Precision production, craft, .2 2.1 .6
 and repair Mechanics and 3.0 1.6 .6
 repairers
 Construction trades -- 1.8 .3
 Other precision production,
 craft, and repair .2 3.0 1.0
 Operators, fabricators, and .5 5.4 1.7
 laborers
 Machine operators,
 assemblers, and inspectors .2 2.0 .7
 Transportation and material .9 12.3 3.9
 moving
 Handlers, equipment
 cleaners, helpers, and .3 3.7 .8
 laborers
Farming, forestry and fishing .6 4.1 .8

Industry

Private sector .4 4.3 1.4
 Goods-producing industries .2 2.1 .9
 Agriculture .5 4.1 .8
 Mining .2 5.0 .5
 Construction .1 2.1 .6
 Manufacturing .3 1.9 1.0
 Durable goods .2 1.6 .7
 Nondurable goods .3 2.4 1.5

Service producing industries .5 5.4 1.7
 Transportation and public .6 10.3 2.8
 utilities
 Wholesale trade .1 2.7 1.3
 Retail trade .8 8.8 1.6
 Eating and drinking places 2.0 12.6 1.8
 Finance, insurance, and .0 1.5 1.4
 real estate
 Services .5 3.7 1.6
 Private households 1.1 10.2 3.4
 Business, automobile, .2 2.7 1.3
 and repair
 Personal, except private .4 6.6 2.2
 household
 Entertainment and 1.4 13.8 3.1
 recreation
 Professional services .6 2.7 1.6
 Forestry and fisheries -- -- --

Government .3 1.9 1.3
 Federal .2 1.8 1.1
 State .3 1.8 1.2
 Local .3 1.9 1.5


(1) Percent not shown where base is less than 75,000.

NOTE: Data relate to the sole or principal job of full-time wage and salary workers who were at work during, the survey reference week and exclude all self-employed persons, regardless of whether or not their businesses were incorporated. Data reflect revised population controls used in the Current Population Survey effective with the January 1997 estimates. Dashes represent zero.

Similarly, the incidence of shift work was much greater among industries providing services used at all hours of the day as opposed to "9-to-5" industries. For instance, about 47.2 percent of the total labor force employed in eating and drinking places worked an alternative shift, as did 35.9 percent in transportation, and 25.8 percent in hospitals. Conversely, shift work was much less common in industries such as finance, insurance, real estate, construction, and agriculture-industries in which most work is done during the daytime.

Some goods-producing industries operate on extended production schedules and therefore had high proportions of workers on alternative shifts. In many of these industries, it is more costly to shut down the production process at the end of the day and restart the next morning than it is to simply operate on extended, and in some cases, around-the-clock production cycles.(4) Among industries with a high frequency of shift work were paper products (33.3 percent), automobiles (31.3 percent), and mining (24.8 percent).

Shift work occurred less frequently in the public sector than in the private sector, and varied little across Federal, State, and local governments. Within local government, however, the incidence of shift work varies widely by function. Nearly half of the local government employees in justice, public order, and safety functions worked alternative shifts; but only 4.5 percent of those employed in educational services worked an alternative shift.

The CPS supplement included a question intended to derive workers' main reason for working an alternative shift; the results support the notion that the occurrence of shift work is highly correlated with particular industries and occupations.(5) More than half of all full-time employees who worked an alternative shift did so because it was the "nature of the job." It is also apparent that very few of these workers chose to work one of these shifts for the purpose of obtaining greater monetary compensation or to alleviate nonwork conflicts. Only 6.1 percent of all alternative shiftworkers reported working a shift for better pay. About 4.1 percent worked an alternative shift for better childcare arrangements; and only a small fraction did so for an easier commute (0.7 percent) or because it allowed time for school (2.9 percent). Roughly 13.0 percent reported that they were on one of these shifts specifically because alternative shifts were mandated by their employer to meet transportation demand, management, or pollution abatement program requirements. A small percentage of shiftworkers (5.7 percent) worked an alternative shift because they were unable to find another job. (See table 5.)

Table 5. Shift usually worked on principal job by usual full-time wage and salary workers, by reason for working shift, May 1997
[Numbers in thousands]

 Total Shift worked

 Evening Night
Reason for working shift shift shift

Total shift workers 15,183 4,192 3,156
 Better child care arrangements 633 279 257
 Better pay 920 350 330
 Better arrangements for 423 114 214
 care of family members
 Allows time for school 435 201 62
 Easier commute, less traffic 109 51 27
 Could not get any other job 866 383 237
 Mandated by employer to meet
 transportation/pollution 1,967 397 326
 program requirements
 Nature of the job 7,767 1,710 1,084
 Other reasons 1,912 661 561
 Not reporting reasons 151 46 37

 Shift worked

 Rotating Split
Reason for working shift shift shift

Total shift workers 2,649 350
 Better child care arrangements 31 3
 Better pay 81 14
 Better arrangements for 17 5
 care of family members
 Allows time for school 56 11
 Easier commute, less traffic 4 2
 Could not get any other job 75 12
 Mandated by employer to meet
 transportation/pollution 561 55
 program requirements
 Nature of the job 1,610 204
 Other reasons 195 41
 Not reporting reasons 19 3

 Shift worked

 Employer
 arranged
 irregular Other
Reason for working shift shift shift

Total shift workers 3,523 1,313
 Better child care arrangements 35 28
 Better pay 105 41
 Better arrangements for 38 34
 care of family members
 Allows time for school 86 19
 Easier commute, less traffic 12 13
 Could not get any other job 138 20
 Mandated by employer to meet
 transportation/pollution 524 103
 program requirements
 Nature of the job 2,354 805
 Other reasons 224 211
 Not reporting reasons 7 38


NOTE: Data relate to the sole or principal job of full-time wage and salary workers who were at work during the survey reference week and exclude all self-employed persons, regardless of whether or not their businesses were incorporated. Data reflect revised population controls used in the Current Population Survey effective with the January 1997 estimates.

As is the case with differences in flexible work schedules among workers, a portion of the differences among demographic groups in the incidence of shift work can be traced to the occupational distributions of the groups. As indicated in table 2 for example, men were more likely than women to work on an alternative shift: 19.1 percent versus 13.7 percent, respectively; a difference of 5.4 percentage points. A standardization analysis shows that if women had the same occupational distribution as men, then the overall proportion of women on alternative shifts would be 16.3 percent, reducing the difference between men and women to 2.8 percentage points. If the rates of alternative shift work by occupation for men are applied to the occupational distribution of women, then the difference in shift work rates falls to 1.5 percentage points. Thus, shift work is more common among men for two reasons: first, men are more likely then women to choose occupations in which shift work is common; and, on the same job, men are typically more likely than women to work an alternative shift.

Among other major groups, workers who had never been married were employed on one of these shifts more often than married workers (21.0 percent versus 14.8 percent, respectively), and a greater proportion of blacks (20.9 percent) worked alternative shifts than either whites (16.1 percent) or Hispanics (16.0 percent). Another shift-share analysis shows that only a small proportion of the disparity in alternative shift work between blacks and whites can be explained by different occupational groupings; on the same jobs, it is usually the case that more blacks than whites work an alternative shift. In addition, the incidence of alternative shift work varied to some degree by age: nearly one-third of employed teenagers worked an alternative shift. This is not surprising as daytime school commitments prevent many teenagers from working during normal business hours. The prevalence of shift work declines with age to a low of 14.6 percent for workers aged 45 to 54 years. (See table 3.)

In general, the proportion of workers on alternative shifts has changed very little for all of the major demographic groups over the last 12 years. The following tabulation shows the percent working alternative shifts, 1985-97:
 1985 1991 1997

Total, 16 years and older 15.9 17.8 16.8
 Men 17.8 20.1 19.1
 Women 13.0 14.6 13.7

Race and Hispanic origin:
 White 15.3 17.1 16.1
 Black 19.9 23.3 20.9
 Hispanic origin 15.5 19.1 16.0


Part-time workers. Alternative shift work was much more common among workers who usually worked part time than among full-time workers. Of the 20.3 million part-time wage and salary workers, roughly 7.3 million, or 36.0 percent, usually worked an alternative shift on their primary job. The majority of these workers usually worked an evening shift or an irregularly scheduled shift. In many cases, part-timers are students, parents, or persons with other daytime commitments that conflict with a regular "9-to-5" schedule.(6) Another explanation for the high rates of shift work among part-timers is that a sizable proportion of businesses maintain operating hours that extend past the traditional 8-hour day; part-time workers are needed to fill this gap. While the proportion of full-time wage and salary workers who worked alternative shifts was unchanged between May 1991 and May 1997, the proportion of part-timers on alternative shifts fell from 45.6 percent to 36.0 percent over the period.

THE "9-TO-5" WORKDAY does not appear to be in jeopardy of fading from its prominence in U.S. workplaces; yet the data do suggest that the rigidity of those hours continues to relax. In May 1997, about one-fourth of all full-time wage and salary workers could vary the times they began or ended work, nearly double the proportion in May 1985. In contrast, the proportions working alternative shifts--something other than a regular daytime shift--have not increased over the period.

Clearly, the prevalence of both flexible work schedules and alternative shifts is linked to the nature of the work involved in a particular job or industry. However, this explains only a portion of the variation in the frequency of these types of work schedules across demographic groups. Even within the most detailed occupational groupings, sizable differences remain, in both the rates of alternative shift work and flexible work hours among the various demographic groups, differences that the available data do not completely explain.

A brief description of flexible work arrangements

There are several types of formal flexible work arrangements. One type is a "gliding schedule" that requires a specified number of hours of work each day but allows employees to vary the time of their arrival and departure, usually around an established set of mandatory "core hours." Other types of flexible work arrangements include variable-day and variable-week schedules that usually require a specified number of hours per pay period. These types of work schedules frequently are grouped under the umbrella term "flexitime." Under these plans, employees are permitted to choose the number of hours they wish to work each day or each week. Credit or compensatory time arrangements allow employees who accumulate overtime hours to apply those hours to future time off from work, rather than receiving the overtime rate for those hours. The presence of one or more of these arrangements in the workplace does not necessarily exclude the others; many can be used in conjunction with other flexible work arrangements. (For more information, see Atefah Sadri McCampbell, "Benefits Achieved Through Alternative Work Schedules," Human Resource Planning, 1996, Vol. 19.3.)

NOTES

(1) Throughout this article the two terms "alternative shift" and "shift work" refer to all work schedules that do not conform to the regular daytime schedule, for which work hours typically fall between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.

(2) The source of the data used in this article is the May 1997 supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a monthly survey of about 50,000 households, conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The employment estimates for the period under study have been affected by a number of factors. Official data for 1990 and later years incorporate 1990 census-based population controls, adjusted for the estimated undercount, whereas prior data are based on 1980 census-based population controls, for which no such adjustment has been made.

In addition, data for January 1994 and forward are not strictly comparable with data for earlier years because of the introduction of a major redesign of the CPS questionnaire and collection methodology. For additional information on the redesign, see "Revisions in the Current Population Survey Effective January 1994," in the February 1994 issue of the BLS periodical Employment and Earnings.

(3) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employee Benefits Survey, Bulletins 2517 (1999); 2507 (1999); and 2477 (1996).

(4) The actual wording of the question on flexible work schedules was altered on the most recent May supplement to the Survey. Specifically, the word "flexitime" was removed in the description of flexible work hours.

(4) Earl F. Melior, "Shift work and flexitime: how prevalent are they?" Monthly Labor Review, November 1986, pp. 14-20.

(5) Those who responded that they work a schedule other than a regular daytime schedule were asked, "What is the main reason why you work this type of shift?"

(6) Data from the Current Population Survey show that among workers who usually work part time, roughly 55.9 percent work part time due to one of the following reasons: 1) childcare problems; 2) other family or personal obligations; 3) attending school or training. These data are 1997 annual averages and appear in table 20 of the January 1998 issue of the BLS periodical Employment and Earnings.

Thomas M. Beers is an economist in the Division of Labor Force Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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