Tasc report finds 44% of Irish workers are ‘precariously employed’

Precarious working now part of mainstream, says think tank

Zero-hour contracts do not provide minimum working hours and if-and-when contracts place no obligations on either employer or worker.

Zero-hour contracts do not provide minimum working hours and if-and-when contracts place no obligations on either employer or worker.

 

Ireland is returning to the “days of the hiring fair” with hundreds of thousands of workers countrywide having no permanent contracts, the launch of a report on precarious working conditions has been told.

Think tank Tasc says the number of people surviving on low- or no-security jobs, with devastating knock-on impacts on their lives and health, is widespread and this way of working has moved from the fringe to the mainstream.

Precarious work is no longer confined to “gig economy” jobs like couriering, but is now prevalent in professions such as teaching, health, university lecturing, telecommunications and IT, it says.

In a 122-page report called Precarious Work, Precarious Lives, author Dr Sinead Pembroke says about 44 per cent of workers in Ireland are “precariously employed”.

However she urged caution with the figure, based on an estimate from European Commission research.

“This includes people on temporary, fixed-term contracts but also zero-hour contracts, if-and-when contracts and bogus self-employment,” Dr Pembroke told The Irish Times.

“But part of the problem is we don’t know the exact figure.”

Zero-hour contracts do not provide minimum working hours and if-and-when contracts place no obligations on either employer or worker, while bogus self-employment is where somebody is a de-facto employee but registered as self-employed.

Risk of poverty

Dr Pembroke says most people in precarious work are at increased risk of poverty, with no guarantee of hours or income from week to week, no sick pay, no annual leave, no pension entitlements.

They are often unsure if they can cover basic monthly bills and may have to rely on social welfare.

Younger people are at particular risk, making them more dependent on parents or family for much longer than they would wish, according to the report.

Marie Claire McAleer, from the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI), said research carried out by the council showed that 38 per cent of people aged between 18 and 29 years were on temporary contracts.

A “staggering 82 per cent” said that precarious work was the only work available, she said.

“Over 70 per cent said that their current temporary or part-time contract was causing serious hardship to their lives and 64 per cent said that their current contract made it difficult to plan for personal and family lives.”

Ms McAleer said that it was critical that the jobseeker’s allowance for people under 25 was reinstated to the normal rate.

Unequal policy

“The lower rate that is in place currently for younger people is a deeply unequal and unjustified policy,” she said.

“It is NYCI’s view that it is contributing to the huge prevalence of precarious work among younger people. It is not a job activation measure, as it is dressed up to be.

“It is nothing but a deeply discriminatory policy that is having a damaging impact on young people who just want to work and be able to plan for a decent future.”

Labour Senator Ged Nash warned of the “creeping casualisation of work” in Ireland which, he said, was taking away the dignity of decent work for an increasing number of workers.

“It’s like going back to days of the hiring fair,” he said.

Mr Nash said “zero-hours contracts, although dreadful, are not where the real problem is today”.

“The big problem is the rise of if-and-when contracts,” he said. “This a problem on steroids that is getting out of control.

“They effectively mean that a person’s contract ends when the shift is over and are commonplace in many of our profitable industries like the hospitality sector.”