An examination of employment precarity and insecurity in the UK

Choonara, Joseph (2018) An examination of employment precarity and insecurity in the UK. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

Employment precarity and insecurity are major topics of discussion within the sociology of work and in society at large. This thesis demonstrates the limits to the growth of precarity in the UK labour force. It contests the view that employment is becoming relentlessly more precarious in the neoliberal period. Furthermore, it challenges the view expressed by some theorists, including many on the radical left, that precarity is part of a recasting of class relations undermining the capacity of workers to challenge capital.
Precarity is defined here as an objective condition whereby employment becomes more contingent. It is measured through a study of non-standard employment and employment tenure, using surveys of the UK labour force. Non-standard employment has not grown substantially. Mean employment tenure has remained stable overall, having fallen a little for men and risen for women since the 1970s. While there are areas of precarious work, these tend to be hemmed in by permanent, long-term jobs.
This is explained through a Marxist theorisation of labour markets, emphasising the interdependence of capital and labour, and the role of the state in securing the reproduction of labour-power.
To help understand the resonance of the concept of precarity, subjective job insecurity is measured. Survey data shows little evidence of a secular rise in insecurity. However, in the 1990s, and again after the 2008-9 recession, concerns about the loss of valued features of work combined with a wider ideological climate of uncertainty to increase generalised job insecurity.
The findings of this thesis contest widespread pessimism regarding the capacities of the working class under neoliberalism, leading to practical implications for the orientation of the labour movement and the radical left. Finally, the research suggests changes to surveys of the labour force that would improve measures of precarity and insecurity in the future.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > Business School > Leadership, Work and Organisations
B. > Theses
Item ID: 24274
Depositing User: Vimal Shah
Date Deposited: 21 May 2018 15:20
Last Modified: 06 Sep 2018 20:11
URI: http://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/24274

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