Skip to content

ISER Working Paper Series 2020-10

Zero-hours contracts: flexibility or insecurity? Experimental evidence from a low income population


Publication date

15 Sep 2020


This paper experimentally studies labour supply responses to earnings uncertainty. 301 low-income, working age, non-student individuals took part in an on-line experiment simulating standard and zero-hours contractual conditions. Results unambiguously support the hypothesis that work uncertainty discourages work. This is not only because variability in work availability reduced total expected pay but also because uncertainty itself is perceived as detrimental. Uncertainty is avoided even at the cost of lower total earnings. Interactions between work related uncertainty and the benefit system are important. Both the use of benefits as insurance when work is unavailable and benefit sanctions can increase incentives to take up insecure work.


Labour Market, Labour Economics, Economics, Welfare Benefits, Income Dynamics, and Wages And Earnings

Paper download  


Research home

Research home


Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest