Why people risk insecure work

An interesting report from The Work Foundation (via Lancaster University) has just landed. Published in partnership with Unison, it looks at the choices and experiences of those in insecure work, and the kinds of interventions that could support them into better-paid, more secure jobs in the future.

We should bear in mind that the report starts from the (largely correct) assumption that insecure work is sub-optimal for much of the workforce, and that participation in this part of the economy is the result of falling into a trap of one kind or another.

It’s true for a lot of the economy, but not always for people who work in the entertainment sector who were always part of The Gig Economy long before the bogus forms of self-employment promoted by delivery companies and suchlike were even heard of.

From the summary:

Many of those in insecure work find themselves having to trade security for flexibility to balance work around other factors in their lives, such as caring responsibilities or health issues. This leaves them vulnerable to economic shocks, as well as potential negative impacts on their wellbeing and future career prospects.

Four in ten (44%) insecure workers earning less than £18,000 per year said they were in their current job due to limitations, such as the availability of jobs in their area, poor transport infrastructure, or a lack of available childcare. Younger and older workers, those on low incomes, and people in part-time work were all significantly more likely to feel they had more limited choices.

Just under half of all workers in insecure jobs (46%) said they would find another job if limiting factors were no longer impacting them, compared with just 39% of secure workers.

Their proposals are interesting – specifically….

  • reforms to flexible working rights – these would make permanent employment more useful to many of these workers
  • improve ‘Access to Work’ support to that more people with disabilities were able to find gainful employment
  • further improve the government’s medium terms plans to (get the next government) improve access to childcare.

The whole thing is worth a look – particularly around people who would probably prefer a full-time secure job if one were on offer (in Bectu’s sector, unusually, we have a relatively high proportion of people who would prefer to remain ‘freelance’ – this doesn’t mean that good productivity-related measures of the kind proposed here wouldn’t benefit them, and the economy.

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