Precarious work: a neglected problem

Challenges thrown up by new labour market conditions and particularly their impact on young people must be confronted

 

The problems faced by people in precarious or insecure work deserve serious attention from Government. Apart from the obvious issue of job security, there are a range of difficulties that confront people in precarious employment, including the inability to plan for the future.

Even accepting that a significant number of those in precarious employment are there by choice, because it suits their work-life balance, the majority are no doubt in that position because they have no other option. The latest debate on the issue has been prompted by a report from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) which maintained that nearly 160,000 people, or eight per cent of the workforce, have significant variations in their hours of work from week to week or month to month.

It added that 135,000 people, or seven per cent of the workforce, were in temporary employment in 2016. Ictu deduced from these figures that precarious and insecure work was now “pervasive” across the Irish economy. Ibec, the employers’ body, insists Ireland has the third lowest rate of precarious employment in the EU. It said the number of people in part-time employment in the first half of this year had actually dropped by 43 per cent since 2012, with the number of temporary employees falling by 20 per cent between 2011 and 2016.

Whatever the scale of the problem, there is no doubt that the changing world of work has thrown up a range of challenges that cannot be ignored. Ictu wants legislation to guarantee workers the right to a minimum number of hours with clear terms and conditions, while Ibec says Ireland already has significant employment right protections for workers whatever the nature of their contracts.

One way or another, there is a need to confront the challenges thrown up by new labour market conditions and particularly their impact on young people. This applies not just to job security but to a range of long-term issues, including pension entitlements and access to mortgage finance.

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