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Job insecurity undermines democracy

by LLB Reporter
2nd Sep 23 8:48 am

Workers on non-permanent contracts and workers with no formal contract are less satisfied with the functioning of democracy in their country, as are workers experiencing job insecurity.

They are less likely to vote in elections and are also less likely to participate in demonstrations – an indicator of disengagement.

Eurofound’s new report Societal implications of labour market instability investigates the social groups whose attachment to the labour market may be unstable and who are most likely to have non-standard working arrangements, and the implications of such arrangements, including workers’ well-being, social exclusion, trust, perception of fairness and political participation.

Overall, the report finds that non-permanent contracts, informal work and insecure jobs are associated with negative outcomes when it comes to social exclusion and trust, while job insecurity is additionally associated with poorer well-being.

The report notes that, in the years of recovery after the Great Recession, arrangements such as temporary employment were relatively high, peaking at nearly 16% of employment in the EU in 2017, with very short-term contracts of less than 6 months most common. Since then, the proportion of temporary contract has declined, partly because many temporary workers lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Temporary employment prevails in several Member States for different reasons. Croatia, Cyprus, Italy, Portugal and Spain, for example, rely heavily on seasonal employment in the tourist industry, while in the Netherlands probational contracts are common, and in Germany and Austria a high proportion of temporary workers are undertaking apprenticeships.

Temporary work tends to be involuntary, and is most often taken up by young people, men and non-nationals. While people with lower levels of education are more likely to have fixed-term contracts, these are also common among education and health professionals. Temporary workers often work long hours, feel underemployed and are most likely to be looking for other jobs.

Part-time workers, on the other hand, are more likely to be women, with women nearly three times as likely to work part time as men. The primary reason given for working part time is care responsibilities. In several Member States in the Mediterranean region, people most commonly work part time because they are unable to find a full-time job. People who work part time are often also employed on temporary contracts.

The report authors note that permanent, post-pandemic measures taken by governments to increase job security for non-standard workers are becoming more common and could be encouraged in other Member States. Finding a balance between avoiding the negative social consequences of unstable attachment to the labour market and encouraging entrepreneurship, and allowing flexibility in companies, is likely to remain an ongoing challenge for both EU and national policymakers.

Speaking on the publication of the report Massimiliano Mascherini, Eurofound’s Head of Unit for Social Policies, said, “This study is significant as it shows the broader impacts of work and contract arrangements on not only individual workers, but also broader society.

“It is important that everyone in Europe feels that they have a stake in society, and job stability, transparency and adequate employment is an important aspect of this.”

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