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The representation of women in politics, addressing the supply side: Public attitudes to job-sharing parliamentarians

By Philip Cowley Dr Rosie Campbell 

Job shares – in which two or more people working on a part-time basis share the same fulltime position – are an increasingly common form of employment. A 2012 BIS survey found that job-sharing was available to 43% of employees.  One group currently not able to job-share in the UK are elected politicians – but there are moves afoot to change this.

This new article (£), just published by the journal British Politics, sets out to see what the British electorate’s reaction to such arrangements might be. It finds no great support for the introduction of job-sharing candidates but nor does it detect overwhelming opposition. Just over a third of respondents were in favour of job sharing or said they would support job share candidates; just over a third took the opposing position; and around a quarter said that they did not know.

When we ran experiments explaining the case for job sharing, we found that support increased slightly but no argument had especially strong impact. The counterarguments have some impact but are also not very strong. When the various pro- and anti-arguments were made together, they appear largely to cancel each other out.

Opposition is greatest among men, Conservative or UKIP voters, and those over 60. Support is greatest among women, Labour or Liberal Democrat voters, and younger respondents, especially those of an age most likely to be taking advantage of job shares themselves.

As well as asking people their views, we also ran a candidate experiment, in which we showed respondents different profiles of candidates, some job sharing, some not.  Again, we found no over-whelming opposition: when confronted with job-sharing candidates most of the public appear to make judgements on the basis of the candidates offered, rather than automatically rejecting job-share set-ups out of hand.

The article is written by me and Rose Campbell and downloadable here (albeit only for those with a library sub to the journal or with a second mortgage to pay for the download costs).

Nothing revealed in the article should give those advocating job shares much encouragement, but neither should it discourage them too much.

Philip Cowley is the Professor of Parliamentary Governenment at the Univeristy of Nottingham. His research interests are primarily in British politics, especially political parties, voting and Parliament. 

Dr Rosie Campbell is a Reader in Politics at Birkbeck, University of London. She has research interests in voting behaviour, political participation, representation, political careers and gender and politics. 


Published inBritish PoliticsConservativesGreen PartyLabourLiberal Democrats

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