Numbers holding low-paid, insecure jobs soar

The number of people in insecure, temporary, low-paid work has “skyrocketed” over the last 10 years, a trade union economic think-tank has found.

The Nevin Economic Research Institute carried out an analysis of, what it described as “precarious work in the elementary professions”. It found that the share of temporary contracts in the elementary professions — those which require the lowest skill level of all the occupational groups and are therefore among the least well-paid jobs in an economy — is almost double the rate for the economy as a whole.

Report author Ciarán Nugent said more than four out of five temporary workers in elementary occupations would rather have an open-ended contract: “Moreover, the share of part-time workers has increased from about 17% to about 22% and the share of involuntary part-time workers within this larger group is twice as big as it was before the financial crisis (51% compared to 24%).”

Mr Nugent said the incidence of involuntary underemployment in 2004 was quite rare even for those on temporary contracts: “In 2015, for part-time self- employed and part-timers on permanent contracts, almost one in four would rather work more hours.”

Mr Nugent found there are three groups that are particularly vulnerable to precarious employment: women, young people and foreign nationals. “Thirty-eight percent of female part-timers in elementary professions could not find a full-time job though they wanted one in 2015, over two and a half times the rate in 2004. This has also risen for men (62%-77%).

“Although women seem to be relatively ‘less-precarious’ according to these measurements it is important to note that these figures are for shares of those on part-time or temporary contracts and that in the first place, women are far more likely to be working part-time (32% compared to 11% in 2015).”

Mr Nugent found that, while less than 1 in 20 workers aged over 30 work on fixed-term contracts, more than 1 in 5 workers under the age of 30 are on temporary contracts — a rise of almost 40% since 2004.

“Almost 90% of elementary workers over the age of 30 would rather have a secure job but cannot find one; almost 10 percentage points more than the rate for the wider labour force and almost 50% more than the rate in 2004. The same figure for under-30s on fixed-term contracts has also risen by over 10% in the elementary professions in the same period to 75%.”

He said, overall, about 13% of all working 15-30-year-olds are in temporary jobs they would rather trade for a permanent position whilst 15% of all 15-30-year-olds in elementary professions are in the same position. For over 30s the corresponding figures are around 3% and 4% respectively.

The NERI researcher said it is yet to be seen whether some of the trends he had identified are structural and the level of segmentation currently in the Irish labour market likely to last, or whether precarious work will decline as employment grows and the bargaining position of labour improves.

“By some measures, precariousness has already slightly declined whilst in others the level has remained almost steady since its peak in 2012, the year that Ireland turned the corner. For many, particularly those who entered the Irish labour market between 2009 and 2014 the effect of precariousness could last a lifetime.”


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