- For the general condition, global perspectives, see Precarity.
Precarious work is non-standard employment that is poorly paid, insecure, unprotected, and cannot support a household. In recent decades there has been a dramatic increase in precarious work due to such factors as globalization, the shift from the manufacturing sector to the service sector, and the spread of information technology. These changes have created a new economy which demands flexibility in the workplace and, as a result, caused the decline of the standard employment relationship and a dramatic increase in precarious work. An important aspect of precarious work is its gendered nature, as women are continuously over-represented in this type of work.
Contrast with Regular Employment
Precarious work is frequently associated with the following types of employment: "part-time employment, self-employment, fixed-term work, temporary work, on-call work, home-based workers, and telecommuting." All of these forms of employment are related in that they depart from the standard employment relationship (full-time, continuous work with one employer).
The standard employment relationship can be defined as full-time, continuous employment where the employee works on his employer’s premises or under the employer's supervision. The central aspects of this relationship include an employment contract of indefinite duration, standardized working hours/weeks and sufficient social benefits. Benefits like pensions, unemployment, and extensive medical coverage protected the standard employee from unacceptable practices and working conditions. The standard employment relationship emerged after World War II with the men who worked in the manufacturing industries and this soon became the norm. On completing their education, most men would go on to work full-time for one employer their entire lives until their retirement at the age of 65. During this time, women would only work temporarily until they got married and had children, at which time they would withdraw from the workforce.
The Regulation of Precarious Work
Globalization and the spread of information technology have created a new economy that emphasizes flexibility in the marketplace and in employment relationships. These influences have resulted in the increase of women in the workplace as well as the rise in precarious work. Regulation of precarious work differs between each country. These regulations can either reinforce the differences between standard and precarious employment or they can serve to lessen these differences by increasing the protections afforded to precarious workers.
Changes in the nature of work in developing and developed countries have inspired the International Labor Organization (ILO) to develop standards for atypical and precarious employment. The ILO began to expand its policies to include precarious workers with the Convention Concerning Part-time Work in 1994 and the Convention Concerning Home Work in 1996. While, the Organization’s more recent initiative, titled "Decent Work," began in 1999 and attempts to improve the conditions of all people- waged, unwaged, those in the formal and informal market, by enlarging labor and social protections.
- Fudge, Judy; Owens, Rosemary (2006). "Precarious work, women and the new economy: the challenge to legal norms". In Fudge, Judy; Owens, Rosemary. Precarious work, women and the new economy: the challenge to legal norms. Onati International Series in Law and Society. Oxford: Hart Publishing. pp. 3–28. ISBN 9781841136165.
- International Monetary Fund, Central Committee 2007 (2007). "Global action against precarious work". Metal World (Global Union Research Network - GURN) (1): 18–21.
- Vosko, Leah F. (2006). "Gender, precarious work, and the international labour code: the ghost in the ILO closet". In Fudge, Judy; Owens, Rosemary. Precarious work, women and the new economy: the challenge to legal norms. Onati International Series in Law and Society. Oxford: Hart Publishing. pp. 53–76. ISBN 9781841136165.