My research on insecure employment showed how it damaged people’s lives at many levels – it caused anxiety and stress, it robbed them of their ability to plan for the future, and it meant that they lived on a low income. Now there is a widely-held view that holding any job facilitates mobility into other jobs, better jobs, or permanent jobs in the same company or organisation. But this was not the case for many of the people that I interviewed. Their insecure job was not a pathway to a better, more secure job. It was instead, a trap.
Many insecure workers do not know from one day to the next if they will have work – and an income – while for others their insecure job goes on from year to year without any benefits of a permanent job. All insecure workers live with the knowledge that they can be terminated at any time regardless of the length of their tenure – which is precisely what happened to a number of people in my study.
Now the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus the massive cost to society and the economy of employment insecurity, as these workers kept going to work even when they didn’t feel well and indeed had the highly transmissable coronavirus.