Hours and pay insecurity in the UK labour market

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Publication date

November 15, 2020


In the last decade, the UK has experienced strong employment growth but also an increase in atypical non-standard forms of employment, such as zero-hours contracts, on-call and agency work, and the gig economy. These types of employment have in common the fact that workers are not guaranteed a minimum level of work and pay or only a very low one. The result is that workers can face a large amount of income instability and difficulties in organizing and planning their time. Nonetheless, workers have been said to benefit in at least two ways. First, providing employers with flexibility is assumed to foster employment creation, reduce unemployment and facilitate the labour market integration of groups facing barriers to employment. Second, flexibility is assumed to be beneficial not just to employers but also to employees, particularly those that need to combine work with other responsibilities. This project aimed to examine the evidence in support of these two claims using quantitative analysis of survey and experimental data. It asked the following two questions:1) Is there evidence that jobs with unstable hours and pay help the unemployed transition into employment? And is there evidence that groups facing barriers to employment are able to benefit?; 2) How do workers react to instability in hours and pay? Does the welfare system moderate the impact?






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