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Living in a state of flux: How pay insecurity affects the choices and living standards of low income families

The nature of employment is changing. Secure, life-long employment is increasingly replaced by various forms of insecure work: temporary, zero-hours contracts, bogus self-employment, and the gig economy. The number of contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours rose to 1.8 million while some five million workers are self-employed, many working in the ‘gig economy’. Even for workers on standard contracts pay can vary significantly due to bonuses, commission pay, shift work or overtime.

While pay volatility is not necessarily bad, we know from previous research that most people prefer income stability and the ability to budget and plan their finances ahead. Low earners are particularly likely to be negatively affected. They are both more likely to experience pay volatility and less likely to have savings that would allow them to cope with adverse income shocks. The safety net plays an important role by compensating workers when their pay temporarily falls. But certain features such as waiting times and badly timed assessment periods can also exacerbate income volatility.

Has pay insecurity increased recently? How do people on low incomes cope with it? Can the government reduce pay and income insecurity? What role do employment and welfare policies play in addressing pay insecurity? These and other related questions will be addressed at an event hosted by the Nuffield Foundation. Researchers from the University of Essex, University of Oxford and the Resolution Foundation will present their work on pay insecurity followed by a panel discussion.

Date & time

31 Jan 2019, 14:00


Nuffield Foundation, 28 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3JS