Where will all the part time jobs come from?

By Slow Dad - January 23, 2017

Many people pursuing financial independence assume they will be able to work part time later in life. Where will all these part time jobs come from?
One of those popular topics in the financial independence world goes roughly along the lines of “I plan to drop back to working part time, it will keep me in beer money and stop unemployment television turning my brain to mush”.

I applaud the sentiment. Especially given the government retirement age is slowly but surely retreating, and the ponzi-esque quality exhibited by many of the world’s perennially underfunded pension funds.

However I would like to know where all these part time jobs are going to come from?

Not everyone is going to be able to kick back and work as a highly paid non-executive director of a publicly listed company for 1-2 days a month.

Is part time work a pipe dream?

Is there a vast market of vacant part time jobs out there that nobody is talking about?

Are there legions of unfilled roles that don’t require heavy lifting and working out of doors?

In an attempt to answer this question I entered three skills commonly possessed by many FIRE folk "sql or data or html" into three leading job portals. I filtered the results on temporary or part time jobs located within 50 miles of London.

There were 7 in total, for a geographic area with over 14 million people living within it. 7!

Expanding the geographic reach of the search to the whole of the UK still returned 7 vacancies, now covering a population of over 65 million people.

The same search for full time or contract work returned 771 vacancies in London and 1336 nation wide.

What will all these retirees wanting to work part time actually do?

Put yourself in the position of an employer for a moment.

Is your first choice hire a person who is now looking more for entertainment than hard work?

Someone who means well, but whose heart may not be in the job?

An employee for whom your usual motivational carrots such as bonuses or promotions largely bounce off because they don’t need them?

Did you answer “No”? Me too.

Hiring retirees can be rewarding and successful

Personally I think retirees have a lot to offer. They possess decades worth of hard won knowledge and experience. They often have research and problem solving skills that school leavers and graduates could only dream of.

To be fair, there are good news stories about successfully employing retirees. For example Australian hardware chain Bunnings has experienced great success doing so. When you need advice of how to change a leaky tap washer, would you prefer to ask a pimply faced 16 year old or a former plumber who spent the last 30 years doing just that job?

There is no good reason for them not to exist

Unfortunately these stories are noteworthy because they are scarce.

Few of our current jobs realistically lend themselves to employees who wish to work part time. Not for any practical reason. Rather the ever present fear of redundancy, outsourcing, offshoring, and globalisation make hiring part timers politically unfeasible.

That is not to mention the new fear being fanned by the media of everyone being replaced by a machine learning robot who looks like Terminator, thinks like Stephen Hawking, and talks like Siri!

Replaced by a machine learning robot who looks like Terminator, thinks like Stephen Hawking, and talks like Siri

Already employees fear utilising their holiday entitlements, worried their employer will discover they aren’t essential. What happens when a retiree can perform the same role in 15-20 hours per week?

The absence of part time work isn’t a new phenomenon, just ask any mother of young children who forlornly hoped to gainfully return to the workforce part time while her kids were at school.

Options do exist, but they are not easy

Not all professions lend themselves to working just a few hours per week. One solution is to look at moving to a seasonal working pattern, perhaps taking a 3 month full month contract over the winter months and then taking the summer off entirely.

Another option is to start a consultancy business, marketing the services you previously provided as a full time employer on an hourly or project based "as need" basis. Of course such an enterprise would be much easier to establish while you are still working, with ready access to your first set of potential clients.

Others could look towards offering their services on skills exchanges such as Upwork and Freelancer, or moving into teaching positions training/mentoring the next generation of people seeking to enter the profession in which they hold expertise.

Unfortunately none of these are easy options, and few resemble the blissful part time existence many would-be retirees dream of.

The alternative is accepted that part time work that is commonly available, casual jobs flipping burgers or "zero hour contracts" stacking shelves for minimum wage. Not every lawyer or actuary would be happy performing this type of work, but some will.

So what?

I applaud the sentiment of a retiree wanting to take their foot off the accelerator and ease back the pace of life a little, while still making a meaningful contributing to society and avoiding becoming a couch potato.

However I ask once again, where will all these part time jobs come from?

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  1. This is very interesting. I just had a retired individual write in to me and share some great tips on creating some income on the side in retirement here: http://myfamilyonabudget.com/making-extra-money-when-retired/

    I think it's going to come down to these people starting a service business for extra income and working for themselves so they can dictate their own hours. Although with this generation not being as tech savvy, I don't know how well that will work out...

  2. Very true Steve.

    I think it will likely go one step further, many professions will move to a service economy basis where service providers subcontract to freelancer providers as their business ebbs and flows. Outwardly it looks like the same service, but without the overhead of providing benefits and so on to staff. We're already seeing that in the journalism, nursing, teaching and technology sectors. It isn't seamless, but if processes are clearly defined then the services provided are often "good enough".

  3. Interesting if somewhat pessimistic peice!

    Hey if worse comes to worst, I could always click on the advert on this very page, apparently I will earn £5 for every survey I fill in ;)

    In all seriousness tho I'm not too worried about securing part time work in early retirement. Any one resourceful enough to achieve FIRE or an element of that even, I think should have no trouble sourcing some fairly meaningful PT work. As for the rest of the masses who knows but I think one macro trend will have to be reduced working weeks as the rise of the robots continues. It will be a fun ride whatever happens I think!

  4. Thanks TFS. Just make sure you click my affiliate link for those surveys. ;-)

    Don't worry about the robots, you'll always have your slightly secret matched betting winnings to fund your retirement years!

  5. "Hey if worse comes to worst, I could always click on the advert on this very page, apparently I will earn £5 for every survey I fill in ;)"

    This conjures up images of early retirees at the library sitting at one of those computer tables filling out surveys, at least for me - anyone else? #haha

  6. I've just spent some time volunteering (whilst being fussy about my next part time job) and charities could be the provider of those part time jobs and temporary contracts. I found bidding for funding lighter than former roles but more taxing than working in a little charity shop. There's a potentially a chicken and egg situation as many of the ppl with the more advanced skills are going to be looking to work full time.

  7. Thanks Sarah. The charity sector could certainly be an option for some people. I wonder how many people know how to prepare and submit a successful tender for funding? It isn't a skill that gets taught in school, like so much in the Personal Finance space I suspect it might be something many have to learn the hard way.