Conceptualising Precarity and Insecurity

  • Joseph Choonara


The aim of this chapter is to suggest coherent definitions of, and ways of measuring, employment precarity and insecurity, drawing on the literature of the sociology of work, employment relations theory, labour economics and related disciplines. On the basis of this discussion, a parsimonious definition of precarity is offered. Precarity is treated as an objective condition, present in work, reflecting the contingency of the relationship between the worker and the employer. Precarity in this sense can be measured through studying the growth and generalisation across the labour force of a series of forms of non-standard employment that do not guarantee the continuity of the employment relation along with a study of employment tenure across the labour force. Insecurity is defined as a subjective condition, present in work, and is further divided into two categories. Job tenure insecurity reflects the fear that workers feel that they may lose their job and is the subjective counterpart to precarity. A second form of insecurity, job status insecurity, reflects the fear that valued features of a job will be lost. Insecurity can be estimated through surveys of employees that ask them about their security in their work.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Choonara
    • 1
  1. 1.School of BusinessUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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