The dimensions of precarious employment

What are the key features of precarious employment?

Researchers, including Institute Scientist Dr. Emile Tompa, have described the following “dimensions” of precariousness:

Inadequate income and benefits

Does the job pay enough in wages and benefits so workers can pay for basic needs like housing, food, education and health care?

Uncertainty of continuing work

Do workers feel they will have a job in the next month, the next six months, the next year? Are they being forced to work month- to-month or on six-month contracts? If they have permanent jobs, is there a risk of mergers or downsizing in their own workplaces or in their job sector?

Little or no control over work processes

Do workers feel they can influence things such as pace, scheduling and work flow in their jobs? Do they have the necessary resources to perform their jobs well? Or do they have almost no say in how they do their work?

Lack of legal and institutional protection

Are workers protected against unfair dismissal and unhealthy work conditions, either through labour legislation or organizational policies? Are they allowed to say “no” to work which they feel is unsafe or overly stressful?

Perceived work-role status

Do workers feel a lack of prestige associated with their jobs and/or their places within the organization? Do they feel valued and respected by co-workers and supervisors?

Socio-cultural environment at work

Are peers and co-workers supportive or is the atmosphere at work highly competitive in a negative way, with everyone fighting for advancement?

Risk of exposure to physical hazards

Are workers forced to take jobs which expose them to physical, biological, chemical and/or other hazards that can negatively impact health?

Training and career advancement opportunities

Do workers have reasonable access to job-specific and occupational health and safety training and to other skills-development opportunities?

Source: At Work, Issue 43, Winter 2006: Institute for Work & Health, Toronto