Remco Vermaire is ambitious and, at 37, the youngest partner in his law firm. His banker clients expect him on call constantly — except on Fridays, when he looks after his two children.
Fourteen of the 33 lawyers in Mr. Vermaire’s firm work part time, as do many of their high-powered spouses. Some clients work part time, too.
“Working four days a week is now the rule rather than the exception among my friends,” said Mr. Vermaire, the first man at Wijn & Stael Advocaten to take a “daddy day” in 2006. Within a year, all the other male lawyers with small children in his firm had followed suit.
For reasons that blend tradition and modernity, three in four working Dutch women work part time. Female-dominated sectors like health and education operate almost entirely on job-sharing as even childless women and mothers of grown children trade income for time off. That has exacted an enduring price on women’s financial independence.
But in just a few years, part-time work has ceased being the prerogative of woman with little career ambition, and become a powerful tool to attract and retain talent — male and female — in a competitive Dutch labor market.
Indeed, for a growing group of younger professionals, the appetite for a shorter, a more flexible workweek appears to be spreading, with implications for everything from gender identity to rush-hour traffic.
There are part-time surgeons, part-time managers and part-time engineers. From Microsoft to the Dutch Economics Ministry, offices have moved into “flex-buildings,” where the number of work spaces are far fewer than the staff who come and go on schedules tailored around their needs.
The Dutch culture of part-time work provides an advance peek at the challenges — and potential solutions — that other nations will face as well in an era of a rapidly changing work force.
“Our part-time experience has taught us that you can organize work in a rhythm other than nine-to-five,” said Pia Dijkstra, a member of Parliament and well-known former news anchor who led a task force on how to encourage women to work more. “The next generation,” she added, is “turning our part-time culture from a weakness into a strength.”
On average, men still increase their hours when they have children. But with one in three men now either working part time or squeezing a full-time job into four days, the “daddy day” has become part of Dutch vocabulary.