Is Work Being De-standardised?

  • Joseph Choonara


The purpose of this chapter is to test the proposition that forms of employment not guaranteeing continuity of employment have expanded in the UK. This might include temporary employment of various kinds, agency work that is not included in the standard measures of temporary employment, zero-hours contracts (ZHCs) and some forms of false or bogus self-employment. As a result of the analysis, it is not ruled out that some forms of non-standard employment have grown or that new forms have emerged during the neoliberal period. However, these seem to be confined to particular areas of employment. There is little evidence that they are becoming the norm. Even if all the forms of non-standard employment are taken together, at most they have expanded by 4 per cent of the labour force since the 1980s, and that probably overstates their growth, which may be negligible or even negative. Among those in employment, more than 90 per cent are in permanent, directly employed forms of work. The argument that false forms of self-employment have placed some workers in a precarious position is more compelling. However, the recent growth in all forms of self-employment of 3 per cent since 2001, before which it was trending down, cannot offer an explanation for rising precarity throughout the neoliberal period. Moreover, self-employment is the area in which the LFS data is most problematic and it remains unclear how much of the increase since 2001 involves precarious forms of work. Where false self-employment occurs, it seems to be concentrated in areas in which it has traditionally been used, such as construction. There is little evidence of an emergent “gig economy” in the aggregate data.


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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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