Order Description

Answer the questions below directly based on reading that i provide

1. What do you understand by the expression ‘precarious work’?

2. What statistical measures might be used to indicate the prevalence of precarious work?

3. Are there aspects of precariousness that might not be evident from these measures?

4. How significant are these aspects for the quality of life?

-no need for in text citations or any references -try to use interpersonal words (own thoughts on the discussion questions.) -put all the answer below each questions (no essay format)

© Nicholas Smith
We noticed in the discussion of unemployment that one can be in serious wont of employment without finding oneself in the rank of the unemployed. This is the predicament of all those people whose employment is insufficient; those who have some but not enough paid work. We also noted that there is evidence to suggest that the number of underemployed is large and rising. Indeed, there are those who claim that this group, or a mutation of it, is so large, and rising at such a rate, as to constitute an emerging class of its own: the ‘precariat’. And fear of finding oneself stuck in the precariat class, doomed forever to precarious work, is one of the defining anxieties of our times surrounding work.
While there is some disagreement amongst sociologists and economists about how exactly to define precarious work, and the precariousness of the situation of the people who do it, they all pick up on some aspect of the insecurity of work or the worker.1 Precarious work is, in one way or another, insecure, and precariousness is an anxiously inhabited situation of uncertainty, instability and fragility that arises from this lack of security. Those who are underemployed – that is, those who lack sufficient employment – are deprived of the benefits of employment here and now; for those who are precariously employed, this lack projects indefinitely into the future. The most tangible manifestation of this insecurity is the employment contract itself. A temporary employment contract, or a casual (hourly contracted) job, by definition delivers the benefits of employment to the employee for a fixed time only.2 As such, it fails to deliver a key benefit of a continuous employment contract: namely, provision of those benefits that projects freely into the future. The shortcoming of precarious work, in this respect, is that it is a weak buffer against future unemployment, it provides flimsy security against it, by contrast to employment under a continuous contract. The failure of temporary or casual employment to deliver this benefit – that is to say, security – makes it not just insufficient as
1 See for example the discussions in Arne L. Kallerberg, ‘Precarious Work, Insecure Workers: Employment Relations in Transition’, American Sociological Review, vol 74, February, 2009, 1-22; and Guy Standing, The Precariat (London: Bloomsbury, 2011).
2 We leave to one side the conundrum of whether zero hour contracts, which are increasingly used, have this character.
employment, but inadequate as employment too. It affects the quality of the employment, not just the quantity. That temporary or causal employment falls short qualitatively as employment is revealed in the way we speak of a ‘proper job’: a worker may go through more or less lengthy periods of temporarily contracted or casual work, but only finds a ‘proper job’, according to our manner of speech, once he or she lands a continuous employment contract.
It is evident that those who have to make do with short-term employment contracts have good reason for feeling insecure in relation to their work and for being anxious about the future. But a dispute has emerged about the extent of this problem, and the basis it provides for generalisations about the precariousness of work in the contemporary age. On the one hand, there are those, like Arne Kallerberg, Serge Paugam and Klaus Dörre, who find the concept of precarious work useful for social diagnosis and who can provide evidence of a decline in the average length of time workers are attached to their employers; a growth in the amount of ‘outsourced’ or ‘contingent’ work and work undertaken on short-term contracts; and a rise in perceived job insecurity indicated by the reported fear of job loss.3 But the significance of such evidence has been challenged by others, such as Kevin Doogan, Ralph Fevre and Francis Green, who have also been able to invoke evidence indicative of contrary trends.4 So, for example, recourse to the short-term employment contracts characteristic of ‘contingent’ work is more common in some industries (such as mining and agriculture) than others, and levels of ‘subjective job insecurity’ (fear of job loss as reported in attitude surveys) have been found to vary significantly according to region but generally track the rate of unemployment. Findings such as these suggest that precarious work is better conceived as being located within pockets of the labour market, rather than as a general characteristic of the condition of labour as such, and that work-related insecurity is a function of the cycles that the labour market would be expected
3 See for example A. Kallerberg, ‘Precarious Work, Insecure Workers’; S. Paugam, Le Salarié de la Précarité (Paris: PUF 2000); K. Dörre, et al eds. Bewährungsproben für die Unterschicht? (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2013).
4 See for example K. Doogan, ‘Long-term Employment and the Restructuring of the Labour Market in Europe’, Time and Society, 14: 1, 65-87, 2005; Ralph Fevre, ‘Employment Insecurity and Social Theory: The Power of Nightmares’, Work, Employment and Society, 21: 3, 517-535, 2007; Francis Green, ‘Subjective Employment Insecurity around the World’, Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 2:3, 343-63, 2009.
to undergo, rather than an unprecedented structural transformation of employment relations as a whole. Amongst the evidence that has been found to indicate contrary trends (namely a decline in job insecurity) perhaps the most striking are Doogan’s analyses of labour force data in the developed economies from the mid-1980s to mid-2000s, which show no significant rise either in the overall proportion of workers on temporary rather than permanent contracts or the length of employment tenure, and Green’s analyses of attitude survey data from around the world which reveal no general increase in the levels of subjective job insecurity.5 A look at the OECD’s current database shows that the average share of temporary employment in the OECD countries in 2013 was 11.8 per cent, a little more than the level in 2000 (11.3 per cent) but a little less than the level in 2006 (12.2 per cent).6 As the proportion refers to the total level of employment, the share of ‘permanent employment’ in the OECD since 2000 has remained steady at about 88 per cent. Those figures are hardly suggestive of a structural change in employment relations from the permanent to the temporary, from the secure to the precarious.
If careful statistical analysis shows that long-term employment contracts are predominant in the labour market – that short-term temporary jobs are islands, as it were, in the sea of permanently contracted labour – then one might wonder what to make of the widespread anxiety around precarious or insecure work. Doogan and Fevre are critical of social theorists (typically sociologists) who claim that the past three or four decades have witnessed a veritable social transformation, a change in the very nature of society consequent on the decline of secure work and emergence of a class of precarious workers, despite the absence of any statistical evidence for this in the available employment data. However, they do acknowledge that fears and anxieties around insecure work exist and that a discourse of precariousness abounds. Their explanation for this curious state of affairs (the discrepancy between what is actually the case by way of employment security and widespread attitudes towards it) is that such fears and anxieties have an ideological function, one that the discourse on precariousness serves to reinforce and reproduce. That is, it suits the interest of powerful employers to have their current and prospective employees imagine themselves as weak and insecure, in competition with other weak and insecure workers for whatever scraps of short-term employment the labour market has to offer. It suits those interests, in other words, for workers to feel insecure about their jobs and to be
5 See K. Doogan, New Capitalism? (Cambridge: Polity, 2009); and Green, op cit.
6 As presented on the OECD website,, September 2014.
grateful for whatever employment conditions are offered to them. Theorists and critics of the ‘precarious society’ are unwitting accomplices of those interests and would do better, according to this line of thought, to stick to the facts about the actual terms of employment, which testify to the underlying strength and on-going capacity for achievement of the standpoint of organised labour.
There is, however, another explanation that can be offered for the discrepancy between the pervasiveness of anxieties around insecure work, theoretically articulated or not, and the continuing predominance of long-term, relatively secure employment contracts. This is to distinguish between the insecurity that is attached to work from the insecurity that is attached to employment. The mismatch between pervasive anxieties around precariousness and the general availability of long-term employment in the labour market would then be explained, at least in part, by elements of insecurity at work that do not concern the length of the employment contract. Such forms of work-related insecurity would not reveal themselves in the employment statistics, but they would contribute to anxieties around precarious work, which all parties to the debate acknowledge exist, whether real or dreamt up.
Guy Standing, one of the most eloquent purveyors of the precarious society thesis, draws the distinction between work and employment in this context himself. 7 He provides a list of seven forms of security that came to inform the normative model of work (the standard for guiding how work should be organized) in the era of what he calls ‘industrial citizenship’, but which are lacking amongst the precariat of today. Of these, what Standing calls ‘labour market security’, ‘employment security’, and ‘income security’ all relate to work qua employment. Labour market security is the security of having guaranteed access to income-earning opportunities (the norm of full employment); ‘employment security’ provides protection against
7 See Guy Standing, The Precariat, p. 11, though as we go onto explain presently, using a different terminology. Serge Paugam, another leading theorist of precariousness, also draws a distinction between precariousness in relation to job (‘précarité de l’emploie’) and precariousness in relation work (‘précarité du travail’) (Paugam, Le Salarié de la Précarité, p. 356). The need to distinguish security in relation to work from security in relation to employment has also been made effectively by Dale Tweedie in D. Tweedie, ‘Making Sense of Insecurity: A Defence of Richard Sennett’s Sociology of Work’, Work, Employment and Society, 27:1, 94-104, 2013.
the arbitrary termination, modification or infringement of an employment contract; and ‘income security’ provides assurance of a stable income within a job, through a minimum wage, wage indexation and so forth. Of the four remaining forms of security in Standing’s list, three collectively have a different character. What he calls ‘work security’ refers to protection against accidents and illness incurred at work, as prescribed through health and safety regulations, restrictions on the length of the working day and unsociable hours, and so on. ‘Skill reproduction security’ is provided through opportunities to learn and exercise skills through apprenticeships and training. ‘Job security’ refers to protections in relation to the tasks performed, ensuring that the tasks remain stable and afford opportunities for career advancement. Although Standing does not characterise these three forms of security in this way, they all relate to work qua activity. That is, they refer to the regulation of working activity – its duration, quality, form and recognition (in a sense we will endeavour to make clear later). The seventh and final kind of security on Standing’s list, ‘representation security’ combines aspects of work as employment and work as activity. For it refers to guarantees to enable workers to negotiate both the terms of their employment and the terms of their working activity in a collective voice, and collectively to withdraw their working activity (through strike action or work to rule) in the context of such negotiations.
It should be clear from these brief considerations that employment on a long-term contract leaves plenty of room for deep-rooted feelings of insecurity in relation to work. There are aspects of employment that may be insecure in addition to the length of the employment contract; but just as significantly, there are aspects of the working activity one is employed to do that can fill one with a sense of precariousness. Furthermore, while Standing’s list nicely illustrates how insecurity in relation to working activity can arise, it by no means exhausts the possibilities. There is a host of ways in which one can find oneself feeling insecure in one’s work, not just in one’s employment, and good reasons can be provided for supposing that this is not an accidental feature of contemporary work organizations, but a systemic or cultural one. Take for example routine subjection to formalised techniques of performance evaluation. If one is regularly having to stand back from one’s work and question its worth from an ‘objective’, ‘neutral’ or ‘impartial’ point of view, if what one has achieved in the past is in principle never enough to secure ongoing recognition of one’s competence and willingness to work, it would not be unreasonable to start finding insecurities in relation to one’s working activity even if one was
not initially aware of having them. The problem is exacerbated by the discrepancy often perceived by workers between the ‘performance indicators’ their work is measured by and the activity that actually goes into doing good work. The former are presented in a language suited for the purposes of external auditing; the value of the latter is typically communicated in the vernacular of the workers themselves, if indeed it is reflectively articulated at all. Regular subjection to the scrutiny of auditors, and the distorted self-presentation required to appear satisfactory from their standpoint, add to the precariousness of work activity even if the employment contract is stable and one stays in the job. The wages one can expect, one’s position in the work hierarchy, and the type of working activities one is expected to perform are all affected by bad evaluations. A related phenomenon are relations of mistrust within work organizations. If one is continuously on the lookout for ways in which the standard of one’s performance can be made to appear inferior to what is expected, as the ‘weak-link’ in the chain of production or provision of service, again one is likely to find oneself perpetually ‘on guard’, insecure and ‘on the defensive’ in relation to management and other workers. It bears repetition to say that workers can find themselves in such an anxious condition while occupying a ‘permanent’ official position within a work organization.
We will have a lot more to say about performance evaluation later. For the moment, it is important to see how the enforced adoption of a defensive stance in regard to working activity underlies the sense of insecurity that the term ‘precariousness’ attempts to capture. From the lived point of view of the worker, precariousness demands a state of readiness for change, a flexibility of personality adapted to the fungible requirements of the work situation. But the problem here is not just that this is all well and good for some kinds of personality, the ‘risk-takers’ for example, whilst leaving other more ‘risk-averse’ types out in the cold. The problem affects all workers to some degree. This is because precarious conditions of work compromise the psychological investment in work that all working activity to some degree brings in its train. The psychological investment in work enables the worker to overcome the difficulties and endure the pains involved in the work activity. At its best, it can transform those difficulties and pains into sources of pleasure and satisfaction. But the precarious worker, being always on the back foot and on the defensive, is unable to make such an investment. And this block on the psychological investment in working for those who do precarious work is an important feature of the particular form of insecurity at stake here, whatever the personality type of the individual
worker and whatever their conditions of employment. Furthermore, insofar as the defensive stance is a socially imposed position of weakness, those who occupy it are liable to various forms of social domination. In other words, precariousness also means lack of protection from the possibility of arbitrariness that is involved in their being dependent, with regard to employment, income and type of activity, on the will of their employers. In some parts of the world at least, self-awareness of the precariat as a dominated group has given it a political reality which should be reckoned with even if the ‘objective’ basis of precarious work remains obscure.
Richard Sennett sometimes speaks of ‘ontological security’ in regard to work, not an expression you are likely to find in the catalogues of the Bureau of Statistics, but perhaps one capable of yielding insight nonetheless.8 Sennett uses this term to convey the thought that when work goes well, it lends background support to one’s whole sense of identity, but when it goes badly, it can thoroughly undermine this sense. Sennett is particularly concerned by the way in which the cultural norms of work institutions can either foster this sense of security or wear it down. This is because the ontological weight of institutions, so to speak, bears heavily and inescapably on the individual. The larger reality of the institution, when it is organised by the right social and cultural norms, can be a source of self-reassurance for the individual; but when organised by the wrong ones, it can crush the individual or be callously indifferent to the individual’s fate. The latter can be expected to have social as well as psychological consequences. For individuals lacking the ontological security that participation in well-ordered institutions of work would provide can seek it elsewhere. The affiliations of the ‘disaffiliated’ with work seem to be various, but if re-affiliation with well-ordered institutions of work is not an option, there is a question of how these various affiliations will all fit together, and how conducive they will be to social cooperation.9 We have already noted how long-term unemployment can trigger violent counter-reactions in which identity and status are regained independently of, and in destructive opposition to, participation in the world of work. Something
8 See for example R. Sennett and Jonathan Cobb, The Hidden Injuries of Class (New York: Kopf, 1972), p. 201, and The Culture of the New Capitalism (New York: Yale University Press, 2006), p. 175.
9 See for example Standing, The Precariat; K. Dorre, K. Kraemer and F. Speidel, ‘The Increasing Precariousness of the Employment Society – Driving Force for a New Right-wing Populism?’, International Journal of Action Research, 2:1, 98-128, 2006.
similar can be said of the members of the precariat, or those who find themselves indefinitely excluded from the world of well-ordered institutions of work. They too can turn against the world of work as such, which even in its well-ordered manifestation presents itself to them as a friend turned enemy, and seek compensation for this betrayal in the destruction of that world. The implications for social integration of those excluded from well-ordered institutions of work, and the social pathologies that may result from such exclusion, are key issues we will address later. Suffice it for now to observe that in addressing them, the activity of working in institutions that are shaped by cultural and social norms must be in focus, as well as employment contracts and the welfare provisions of the state.
If the insecurities in relation to working activity of the kind we have been describing are not inconsistent with labour market statistics showing a high prevalence of continuing employment contracts, nor are they confounded by relatively high and steady aggregate levels of ‘subjective’ job or employment security. This is because subjective job security is measured by the expectation of remaining in one’s job, or in the case of employment security, remaining employed in either one’s present job or another one. In both cases, the security relates to an employment status rather than to working activity. Another consideration to bear in mind is that unlike fear of job loss or a change in employment status, the kind of insecurity that attaches to precarious work activity is not amenable to measurement by way of statistical analysis of attitude survey data (or for that matter any other quantitative method). It would be a gross epistemological conceit to suppose that if such things cannot be measured, they do not really exist. And finally, if, as we are proposing, precariousness should be understood in the context of relations of domination, we would not be surprised if those subject to those relations do not immediately or intuitively describe them that way. As we will see, working also means coping with the unpleasant side of work, and it could lead to denial (notably denial of domination) or to justification of the evils of the working situation (notably consent to domination). This too has significant methodological implications. For relations of domination may need to be ‘uncovered’, and that task may involve questioning what seem to be obvious shared meanings, rather than establishing such meanings as part of the data-generating procedures of quantitative research.

find the cost of your paper

This question has been answered.

Get Answer