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Because precarious employment remains a contested concept, it is still unclear whether it refers to a social relationship, i. Making precariousness a psychological rather than a sociological construct has consequences for both explanation and policy. Psychological precariousness would lead to modifying the behavior of "vulnerable" workers so they can adjust to the labor market, while a focus on the precarious employment relationship would lead to changes in labor market policy e.

When the precarious employment relationship is reduced to a property of the person e. Common measures of precarious employment suffer from this theoretical limitation. When using a single indicator of subjective precariousness e. Such reification has the additional danger of creating an artificially separate group of "vulnerable" workers, minimizing the employment concerns raised by the remaining workforce.

Several scholars contend that precarious employment is merely a feature of working class employment and that there is no further need for such a construct 19 , From this perspective, employment insecurity and exploitation are characteristics of all workers under capitalist production, and what we call precariousness refers to a higher level of exploitation Precarious conditions such as job and employment insecurity, employment strain, low wages, and lack of workers' control over the work process characterize working class positions persons who are employed by someone else and are not in management positions Yet precarious employment refers to contemporary working conditions with high levels of domination, exploitation, and poor health among working class positions 22 , Precarious employment and social class are thus complementary, both theoretically and empirically.

Subsuming precarious employment conditions under social class mechanisms employment relations based on worker domination and exploitation 29 , 32 provides an explanation for its origins and continuation. Rooting precarious employment in social class also avoids the confusion between precarious employment and other social relations involving gender, age, credentials, or migrant status 4. The social mechanism underlying precarious employment, e. Considering these forms of social relations in analyses of precarious employment is nonetheless crucial, since precariousness is more frequent among workers that suffer discrimination according to gender, race, ethnicity, age, or nationality 8.

Precariousness has also been defined in terms of class politics in Guy Standing's The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class 4 , whereby workers in precarious employment positions act politically according to their class interests. Whether workers in precarious employment positions are able to organize and become major political class actors 4 depends on social context. Precariousness is highly ubiquitous, and its study is not sufficiently developed to warrant generalizations.

Examples point to both the difficulty of organizing 33 and to successes of working with labor unions Given the evolution of labor markets in wealthy countries and LMICs, the set of employment conditions known as precarious employment is bound to continue for the foreseeable future One example is the outcome of the European recession. Rather than relying on Keynesian or Social-Democratic policies, the way out of the great recession seems to be the further precarization of the working classes.

Within this context, social epidemiologists are well-positioned to document and explain the relationship between precarious employment and health 8 so that the link to policy solutions is explicit Public health practitioners, in particular those in occupational health, can engage stakeholders and inter-sector policies to eliminate precarious employment, including legislation, labor market regulation, and enforcement 18 , 34 , Esping-Andersen G.

Fijian Minister for Employment officiates at the ILO Centenary Celebrations

The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press; Korpi W. Economic growth and the welfare state: leaky bucket or irrigation system? Eur Sociol Rev ; Piketty T. Capital in the twenty-first century. Cambridge: Belknap Press; Standing G. The precariat: the new dangerous class. London: Bloomsbury Academic; Bourdieu P. Practical reason: on the theory of action. Stanford: Stanford University Press; Global labour flexibility: seeking distributive justice. London: Palgrave Macmillan; Benach J, Muntaner C. Precarious employment and health: developing a research agenda.

J Epidemiol Community Health ; Precarious employment: understanding an emerging social determinant of health.

Annu Rev Public Health ; Lewchuk W, Marlea C. Working without commitments: the health effects of precarious employment. Vives Vergara A. A multidimensional approach to precarious employment: measurement, association with poor mental health and prevalence in the Spanish workforce [Doctoral Dissertation].

Barcelona: Universitat Pompeu Fabra; Research on health inequalities: a bibliometric analysis Soc Sci Med ; Muntaner C, Barnett E. Depressive symptoms in rural West Virginia: labor market and health services correlates. J Health Care Poor Underserved ; The health-damaging potential of new types of flexible employment: a challenge for public health researchers. Am J Public Health ; How do types of employment relate to health indicators?

Findings from the second European survey on working conditions.

Additional Information

Kalleberg AL. Precarious work, insecure workers: employment relations in transition. Am Sociol Rev ; Laurell AC, Serrano M. Marglin SA, Schor J, editors. The golden age of capitalism. Oxford: Clarendon Press; Casale G, editor. The employment relationship: a comparative overview. Oxford: Hart Publishing; Magdoff F, Foster JB.

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The plight of the US working class. Mon Rev ; Breman J. A bogus concept. New Left Rev ; This hypothesis should be tested in further studies and if confirmed should indicate a need for more investment in research in medium and low human development countries. This implication is more pertinent when considering the great interdependence regarding conditions that lead to the above-mentioned DW deficits. Moreover, in low development countries the DW deficit symptom is expected to be more prominent than in more developed countries.

Confirmation of that situation should encourage both researchers and policy makers to undertake research on DW deficit in developing countries. In addition, the DW deficit seems to be a problem that emerges regardless of the position of the country in the Human Development Index. It seems to be a worldwide symptom as a result of complex interactions between players.

Tracking the chains of production and use of products and services worldwide can be relevant in identifying how the DW deficit is caused and provide crucial information for tackling the problem and inspiring paths to solve it. That endeavour should be an important task in future research and intervention. Since the empirical studies in this review focused on only a few topics related to DW, it is not possible to draw firm conclusions about the main results Table 6.


  1. Unexpected Life?
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However, there is some evidence that DW is associated with different types of work motivation through PsyCap mediation and that DW characteristics are highly motivating for workers Ferraro et al. Social science is still taking the first steps in approaching the DW concept as a whole. However, we can say that there is already a long tradition of research in the various components of DW, taken separately, albeit not within the DW field.

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Regulating for Decent Work: New Directions in Labour Market Regulation

Further studies should be concerned with the integration of evidence-based knowledge in explaining and managing DW. In the present work we undertook a literature review of the empirical studies on DW and found that, being a recent concept, the empirical literature is not very extensive.

Of the 38 studies analysed, most are descriptive, covering 82 countries and 17 sectors of activity. Most countries are high or very high in the Human Development Index, which means medium, low, and very low development countries are under-researched. There is a need to broaden the scope of occupations and contexts covered by research in line with the DW agenda.

Additionally, most studies are found not to cover the whole DW concept. Being an integrative concept, this limitation should be addressed in future research. Taking the full range of the concept into account will improve the contribution of the research on DW and its dissemination throughout the world. Considering that DW is a concept with value per se , future study of its determinants seems to be more relevant than its consequences. These determinants are multiple and their identification will contribute to enriching the nomological network of the concept and mainly to designing interventions to promote DW.

Considering the aforementioned interdependence resulting from globalization, the need to study the roles played by the different stakeholders, whether outside or inside organizations, seems also relevant. These are also aspects that should be studied in the future. Three instruments were identified for psychological measurement of DW.

Validation of this type of instrument for use in culturally diverse countries would enhance current knowledge and understanding of DW, considering both objective and subjective measures of the concept. Furthermore, despite the difficulties anticipated in applying this type of measure, it will still be relevant to develop and validate a tool focused on the organizational level of analysis. It is remarkable that no research has focused on studying possible differences between cultures or sectors of activity regarding the most relevant dimensions of DW and the least important dimensions at a specific point in time.

Further studies can address this topic.

Regulating for Decent Work : New Directions in Labour Market Regulation

Given that the number of empirical studies on DW is very small, we decided not to consider as exclusion criterion ethical standards or quality. This decision was taken considering that all the studies were published in academic journals with peer review assessment and the assessment of quality and ethical standards was previously undertaken before being accepted for publishing. However, future literature reviews might use additional criteria regarding quality or ethical standards. The approach presented here is a contribution, among others, that can help to strengthen understanding of the concept and its nomological network.

That understanding might help people e. The differences between objective measures and subjective perceptions seem to be very important in studying the phenomena related to work and the role it represents for people currently and in the future. Work as a social institution should always be considered as DW instead of only focusing on performance and outputs, otherwise work seems to be an alienation of the subject. Human resource managers are advised that work design and human resource practices and policies have to be updated taking into account the evolving nature of the DW concept, as highlighted by Ferraro et al.

Those practices and policies that are against any of the DW dimensions are not sustainable and have expected negative consequences. The definition of DW deficits, its measurement, and subsequent intervention have to take into account an appropriate time frame to detect to what extent the DW deficit is just a short and episodic moment or more long-lasting and requires corrective action, as highlighted by Dos Santos et al. In general, DW has the potential to become a more relevant concept in research and intervention.

That can be true if an effort is made to join the diverse research traditions in several disciplines, thereby contributing to deepening understanding of the concept. This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by any of the authors. Adhikari, D.