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The most common translation I see of バイト I see is "part-time work". However, the contexts I see it used in seem to refer to casual work, as opposed to people having a permanent job, merely with reduced hours, such as women with young children (does this scenario not occur in Japan?).

Is "part-time work" a more accurate translation of バイト than "casual work"?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

"Part-time work" is a valid translation of バイト/アルバイト but it certainly is not the ONLY definition of the words. For instance, if a college student took a year off from school and worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week to save money, that would still be called バイト/アルバイト even though he worked 72 hours a week for a year. Point is he was not a permanent employee.

The same goes for "casual work" that you mentioned. If one is not officially hired as a "regular employee = [正社員]{せいしゃいん}" or "contract employee = [契約社員]{けいやくしゃいん}", one is considered バイト/アルバイト. However, we have a very common new word that describes this type of worker, フリーター. Unlike パート/バイト/アルバイト, the new word expresses or at least implies a laid-back lifestyle with time for hobbies.

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jekai.org/entries/aa/00/nn/aa00nn76.htm claims that パート basically means non-permanent, but because someone is a mother or a housewife or a woman, rather than because they're a student. Is that accurate? –  Andrew Grimm Dec 9 '13 at 8:54
    
No, it is not accurate. Or I should rather say that it is only accurate for certain employers. Problem is that these katakana words are used very loosely as far as what they exactly refer to. Many fast food places now use the word クルー instead of any other words. The employer may call an employee one thing and the employee may call himself another. It seems safe to say, however, that those called パート tend to work longer hours than those called バイト. There is a sense of undependability attached to the image of the word バイト. –  Tokyo Nagoya Dec 10 '13 at 12:29
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