Challenges and Contradictions in the ‘Normalising’ of Precarious Work

Precarious work is increasingly considered the new ‘norm’ to which employment and social protection systems must adjust. This article explores the contradictions and tensions that arise from different processes of normalisation driven by social policies that simultaneously decommodify and recommodify labour. An expanded framework of decommodification is presented that identifies how the standard employment relationship (SER) may be extended and flexibilised to include those in precarious work, drawing examples from a recent study of precarious work across six European countries. These decommodification processes are found to be both partial and, in some cases, coexisting with activation policies that position precarious work as an alternative to unemployment, thereby recommodifying labour. Despite these challenges and contradictions, the article argues that a new vision of SER reform promises greater inclusion than alternative policy scenarios that give up on the regulation of employers and rely on state subsidies to mitigate against precariousness. Paper nominated for the SAGE Prize for Innovation and Excellence 2019.


Author(s) J. Rubery, D. Grimshaw, A. Keizer, M. Johnson
Language English
Year of publication Jun, 2018
Journal Work, Employment and Society
Volume, Number 32, 3
Page(s) 509–527
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