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What is precarious work?

4 October, 2018Casual, temporary, indirect, zero-hours contracts, are all terms that describe precarious work. This type of work is increasingly being used to replace direct, permanent jobs, allowing employers to reduce or even abandon their responsibility to workers. 

People in precarious work lack job security and generally have lower salaries, limited social protection, and few, if any, benefits.

Precarious workers face more difficulties to exercise their rights, notably to join a union and bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions. Injury rates are higher for precarious workers, often due to a lack of on-the-job training given to permanent employees.

People in precarious work have little or no choice in determining their working hours and pay, even if they are freelance or independent contractors. Many work on rolling contracts, doing the same job month after month or year after year. For all intents and purposes they are permanent employees but have no rights to holiday pay, paid sick leave or redundancy payments.

Indirect workers can find themselves trapped in triangular employment relationships, when they are officially employed by a subcontractor or agency, but actually working for another company, with neither taking responsibility for workers’ rights.

Bogus self-employment, where independent workers have just one employer, is another form of precarious work. This particularly applies to the gig economy – for example, delivery workers or taxi drivers who take on one job or gig at a time for a single company.

Find out more:

The International Labour Organization’s report on non-standard forms of employment around the world

The International Trade Union Confederation’s report on precarious work in Asia-Pacific.

The rise of non-standard employment in selected ASEAN countries – by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung foundation.