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Precarious work

Precarious work is a term that critics use to describe non-standard or temporary employment that may be poorly paid, insecure, unprotected, and unable to support a household.[1] From this perspective, globalization, the shift from the manufacturing sector to the service sector, and the spread of information technology have created a new economy which demands flexibility in the workplace, resulting in the decline of the standard employment relationship, particularly for women.[2][3] The characterization of temporary work as "precarious" is disputed by some scholars and entrepreneurs who see these changes as positive for individual workers.[4][5] Precarious is work is ultimately a result of a profit driven capitalist organization of work in which employment is largely understood as a cost that needs to be reduced.[6] The social and political consequences vary greatly in terms gender, age, race and class and result in varying degrees of inequality and freedom.[7]

Contrast with regular and temporary employment

The term "precarious work" is frequently associated with the following types of employment: Part-time jobs, self-employment, fixed-term work, temporary work, on-call work, and remote workers.[1][8] Scholars and critics who use the term "precarious work" contrast it with the "standard employment relationship", which is the term they use to describe full-time, continuous employment where the employee works on their employer's premises or under the employer's supervision, under an employment contract of indefinite duration, with standardized working hours/weeks and social benefits such as pensions, unemployment benefits, and medical coverage.[9] This "standard employment relationship" emerged after World War II, as men who completed their education would go on to work full-time for one employer their entire lives until their retirement at the age of 65.[1] It did not typically describe women in the same time period, who would only work temporarily until they got married and had children, at which time they would withdraw from the workforce.[2]

"We Can Do It!" US wartime poster

While many different kinds of part-time or limited-term jobs can be temporary, critics use the term "precarious" strictly to describe work that is uncertain, unpredictable, or offers little to no control over working hours or conditions.[10][11] This characterization has been challenged by scholars focused on the agency that temporary work affords individual workers.[4] However, many studies promoting individual agency focus on highly educated and skilled knowledge workers, rather than the full range of temporary workers.[5][12]


While increased flexibility in the marketplace and in employment relationships has created new opportunities for regulation, regulation intended explicitly to remediate precarious work often produces mixed results.[13] The International Labour Organization (ILO) has developed standards for atypical and precarious employment, including the 1994 Convention Concerning Part-time Work, the 1996 Convention Concerning Home Work, and the 1999 "Decent Work" initiative.[14]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Fudge, Judy; Owens, Rosemary (2006). Fudge, Judy; Owens, Rosemary (eds.). Precarious work, women and the new economy: the challenge to legal norms. Onati International Series in Law and Society. Oxford: Hart Publishing. pp. 3–28. ISBN 9781841136165.
  2. ^ a b Volsko, Leah F. (2011). Managing the Margins: Gender, Citizenship and the International Regulation of Precarious Employment. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191614521.
  3. ^ Arne L. Kalleberg (2011). Good Jobs, Bad Jobs: The Rise of Polarized and Precarious Employment Systems in the United States, 1970s-2000s. Russell Sage Foundation. ISBN 978-1-61044-747-8. Archived from the original on 2015-02-05. Retrieved 2015-02-05.
  4. ^ a b Arthur, Michael B.; Rousseau, Denise M., eds. (2001). The Boundaryless Career: A New Employment Principle for a New Organizational Era. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199762118.
  5. ^ a b Vallas, Steven; Prener, Christopher (November 1, 2012). "Dualism, Job Polarization, and the Social Construction of Precarious Work". Work and Occupations. 39 (4): 331–353. doi:10.1177/0730888412456027. S2CID 144983251.
  6. ^ Ebert, Norbert (2022). "Society, Work and Precarity". Encyclopedia. 2 (3): 1384–1394. doi:10.3390/encyclopedia2030093. ISSN 2673-8392.
  7. ^ Wilson, Shaun; Ebert, Norbert (2013). "Precarious work: Economic, sociological and political perspectives". The Economic and Labour Relations Review. 24 (3): 263–278. doi:10.1177/1035304613500434. ISSN 1035-3046.
  8. ^ International Metalworkers' Federation, Central Committee 2007 (2007). "Global action against precarious work". Metal World (1). Global Union Research Network - GURN: 18–21. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-06-10.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Kalleberg, Arne L.; Reskin, Barbara F.; Hudson, Ken (2000). "Bad jobs in America: Standard and nonstandard employment relations and job quality in the United States". American Sociological Review. 65 (2): 256–278. doi:10.2307/2657440. JSTOR 2657440.
  10. ^ Kalleberg, Arne L. (February 1, 2009). "Precarious Work, Insecure Workers: Employment Relations in Transition". American Sociological Review. 74 (1): 1–22. CiteSeerX doi:10.1177/000312240907400101. S2CID 29915373.
  11. ^ Cassells, Rebecca; Duncan, Alan; Mavisakalyan, Astghik; Phillimore, John; Tarverdi, Yashar (April 12, 2018). "Precarious employment is rising rapidly among men: new research". The Conversation. Archived from the original on July 2, 2018. Retrieved July 2, 2018.
  12. ^ Barley, Stephen R.; Kunda, Gideon (2011). Gurus, Hired Guns, and Warm Bodies: Itinerant Experts in a Knowledge Economy. Princeton University Press. ISBN 9781400841271.
  13. ^ Campbell, Iain; Price, Robin (September 1, 2016). "Precarious work and precarious workers: Towards an improved conceptualisation". The Economic and Labour Relations Review. 27 (3): 314–322. doi:10.1177/1035304616652074. S2CID 156775527..
  14. ^ Vosko, Leah F. (2006). "Gender, precarious work, and the international labour code: the ghost in the ILO closet". In Fudge, Judy; Owens, Rosemary (eds.). Precarious work, women and the new economy: the challenge to legal norms. Onati International Series in Law and Society. Oxford: Hart Publishing. pp. 53–76. ISBN 9781841136165.

Further reading

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Precarious work
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