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We are still in the dark about unsafe work

We are still in the dark about unsafe work


Before the coronavirus pandemic occurred, it was evident that jobs were plentiful in much of the developed world. It was harder to know how safe they were. Economist Dani Rodrik diagnosed “Chronic Job Scarcity.” Guy Economing was described by another economist as growing “Precariousness” unsafe workers in many countries.

Others disagreed. In one paper last year, economists Alan Manning and Graham Mazeine concluded that “job security has been significantly maintained” in the US, UK and Germany at least in the 21st century. since the beginning of the twentieth century. The Economist he argued this month pessimism about the world of work was in vogue but unjustified by the events.

Insecurity at work is important because it has consequences in all areas of life. It makes it harder keep the roof above your head create a family, progress in work, stay away debt and keep healthy. But the truth is, we don’t know if the insecurity is increasing because we have measured it very badly.

Official statistical agencies in most countries count on employee, self-employed, temporary or agency contracts and so on. Some observers have gone up non-standard work increasing insecurity. But that is lazy and inaccurate. A part-time employee may have the same rights and protections as a full-time employee but not work on Fridays. An agency employee can be a doctor who has a lot of work to do and is free to refuse shifts that he or she doesn’t like.

There are some survey data that have long focused directly on job security, but they tend to use a narrow definition: that respondents will lose how much work they lose. These data were analyzed by Manning and Mazein in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany. It shows great stability in the long run (it has understandable peaks in times of high unemployment).

However, as the authors acknowledge, the fear of losing a job is the only aspect of insecurity, and not always the most obvious. One of the guards I interviewed in the UK, for example, was not worried that he would lose his job, but he still felt unsafe because his employer was constantly changing hours with few warnings.

It could be given 40 hours a week and 20 hours the next. During the work day he had to check his phone to see if he had been given more customers to visit. Sometimes he was overwhelmed with work; at other times he did little work. “I don’t know if I can pay the mortgage at the end of each month. There is no stability, ”he said.

UK National Statistics Office measures the number of people with “zero-hour contracts” who do not guarantee weekly working hours. According to the latest figures, this represents around 3% of the workforce, which was 0.6% in 2007 before the 2008 global financial crisis. This data set loses the measure of this type of work. The caretaker I spoke to, for example, had an “8-hour contract”. I once wrote “hourly contracts”Announces the Santander bank.

Trying to fill that gap in official statistics, the UK Living Wage Foundation published the results of two surveys last week, each based on 2,000 responses he has found that Nearly two-fifths of UK workers spent less than a week on their shifts or work patterns. Among low-paid full-time employees, 55 percent gave less than a week’s notice and 15 percent less than 24 hours.

For some it wouldn’t be a problem, but it’s hard to imagine that it would be everyone’s priority. (Actually, the next time the survey is conducted it would be helpful to ask respondents if they are happy with the organization).

In the same vein, the Resolution Foundation examine 7m bank accounts were anonymised in 2018 and found that more than 80% of low-key employees with permanent jobs had volatile salaries compared to two-thirds of senior employees.

These photos aren’t perfect and can’t tell us if the trends are getting worse. But the instability scales they suggest, especially for low-wage workers, should serve as a confusion for official statistical agencies to take such data on a regular basis. These new complementary metrics should focus less on what people’s contracts say and more on the reality of working life.

There is a lot of discussion about how to improve job security as we emerge from the pandemic. We’ll get better answers if we start asking the right questions.

sarah.oconnor@ft.com



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