Precarious work the 'new normal'

January 24, 2014
Precarious work the ‘new normal’

According to the Director of Murdoch University's Asia Research Centre, the global trend towards insecure, short-term employment is the new status quo, making addressing the challenges it produces vital.

Professor Kevin Hewison said precarious work was at the heart of an ongoing international research project across 10 countries, exploring its form, prevalence and effects.

"Precarious work is increasingly common and is expanding on a global scale, replacing what has long been regarded as standard employment," Professor Hewison said.

"This expansion is associated with social, economic and political changes that have operated for several decades as production has also been globalised.

"Greater capital mobility and heightened international competition has led to unrelenting pressure on prices, which results in buyers continually looking for new producers who offer lower costs, including for labour.

"Employers and government have been forced to become more competitive to attract and maintain investment, and they have done this in part by limiting or reducing the permanent workforce and maximising employee flexibility.

"Global production chains effectively demand that countries compete for investment and that workers compete for jobs on a global basis."

The precarious work project has held forums in the USA, South Korea and Taiwan and is currently looking at how governments, NGOs and unions are dealing with change and how they might restore a balance between capital and labour.

Professor Hewison said workers in Asia were increasingly turning to government to improve the social security net, and said flexible, portable support such as superannuation, social welfare and were for protecting workers under the new model.

"Businesses and governments need to work together to make work less precarious, which involves employment benefits that go with the job, not tied to a company," he said.

"We've seen superannuation-like schemes being introduced in middle-income economies like Thailand, with even independent vendors such as hawkers able to have contributions matched by the government.

"We know that superannuation has been a successful policy in Australia, where trends such as the boom in FIFO work can be viewed as precarious."

Professor Hewison said precarious work was very much the new normal in the US, where a number of companies urged attention to universal healthcare to improve competitiveness and remove the heavy burdens of healthcare responsibilities from their books.

He said supporting workers was a necessity, noting that unaddressed issues of insecurity lead to family and social issues, problems related to stress and potentially political instability.

"The anxiety, anger and alienation of uncertainty can be harnessed by different groups for various ends, not all of them progressive," he said.

Explore further: Unsettled immigrant workers find themselves in precarious work five years after mass layoffs

More information: Read the full report:

Related Stories

Mapping the changing nature of employment

August 9, 2013

While the crisis Europe is currently enduring has had a profound impact in many areas, one of the most concerning ones lies in its high unemployment rates. According to the latest Eurostat figures, over 26 million citizens ...

Future employment prospects bleak

August 27, 2013

Europe's young people are facing a bleak future with a fragmented and precarious labour market that is only just beginning to be appreciated in the West, according to a paper to be presented this Thursday to the European ...

Precarious employment on the rise

October 7, 2013

Ontario's economy, and its traditional economic stronghold in the Toronto region, are slowly returning to pre-recessionary levels of employment. Yet there has been growing concern about the kinds of jobs the economy is creating. ...

Women's 'safe' choices hinder future funds

October 14, 2013

WA researchers have discovered that women tend to choose lower-risk superannuation investment options than men, further compounding the factors that impact their capacity to accrue sufficient savings for their retirement.

Recommended for you

48-million-year-old horse-like fetus discovered in Germany

October 7, 2015

A 48 million year-old horse-like equoid fetus has been discovered at the Messel pit near Frankfurt, Germany according to a study published October 7, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jens Lorenz Franzen from Senckenberg ...

Chimpanzees shed light on origins of human walking

October 6, 2015

A research team led by Stony Brook University investigating human and chimpanzee locomotion have uncovered unexpected similarities in the way the two species use their upper body during two-legged walking. The results, reported ...

How much for that Nobel prize in the window?

October 3, 2015

No need to make peace in the Middle East, resolve one of science's great mysteries or pen a masterpiece: the easiest way to get yourself a Nobel prize may be to buy one.

The dark side of Nobel prizewinning research

October 4, 2015

Think of the Nobel prizes and you think of groundbreaking research bettering mankind, but the awards have also honoured some quite unhumanitarian inventions such as chemical weapons, DDT and lobotomies.

Who you gonna trust? How power affects our faith in others

October 6, 2015

One of the ongoing themes of the current presidential campaign is that Americans are becoming increasingly distrustful of those who walk the corridors of power – Exhibit A being the Republican presidential primary, in which ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.