Report on Precarious Employment in Europe for the European Parliament

Prof. Dr. Paul de Beer, Nuria Ramos Martín and Frank Tros, have been awarded a contract (IP/A/EMPL/FWC/2013-021/Lot1/C3/SC3) – jointly with a consortium of other organisations: IDEA Consult (manager), IES, WIFO and PPMI – to write a report on ‘Precarious Employment: Patterns, Trends and Policy Strategies in Europe’ for the European Parliament.

Context of the study
The issue of precarious employment has been a policy concern for European institutions for a number of years. The crisis that began in 2008 has arguably exacerbated certain trends and led to more insecurity and precariousness for certain groups of people. Young people have, in many ways, borne the brunt of the crisis in that they are finding it extremely difficult to gain access to the labour market. The jobs that they do manage to obtain often tend to be of a precarious nature, in the form of fixed-term contracts, temporary agency work, trainee-ships or internships. Some of these training contracts have been the subject of debate concerning possible abuse by some employers, who offer low or no wages and require young people to work long hours. The European Commission notes that young people often remain outsiders in countries with particularly segmented labour markets, experiencing lower employment rates, more precarious employment conditions and higher unemployment rates than the over¬all average.

Job quality has, as noted in the European Parliament’s specifications for this research, been a concern for EU policymakers in recent years. The European Commission has long campaigned for more and better jobs and the Council on Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) in March 2015 stated that job quality has come under pressure particularly since the onset of the crisis and that there are ongoing concerns about rising inequality, in-work poverty and social exclusion.

There is a growing feeling among the EU institutions that there is a need to ensure more equality in the labour market and to halt the trend towards polarisation of the labour market into insiders and outsiders. In this context, the insiders are deemed to have good quality, secure jobs with stable and open-ended contracts with good pay and working conditions. On the other hand, the outsiders, over-represented by young people, women, ethnic minorities and migrant workers, work in insecure jobs in terms of the type of contract, their pay and their employment terms and conditions.
The European Union offers some protection against precariousness in the form of Directives. These are principally: the fixed term contracts Directive; the temporary agency work Directive; the part-time work Directive; and the posting of workers Directive, recently amended by the enforcement Directive. In addition, the working time Directive also offers protection to workers in terms of stipulating the maximum number of average hours to be worked per week, and setting out weekly rest, daily rest and rest breaks.

Objectives of the study
In this context, the general aim of the study is to describe and analyse the development of precarious work in Europe. The study will examine its underlying causes and assess policy answers at European and national level.

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