This report examines insecure work in NZ from four perspectives. It is a collaborative effort to increase our understanding of the insecure work landscape in NZ by utilising two waves of the Survey of Working Life (2008 and 2012). While we acknowledge that the perception of job insecurity and precarity in general could also apply to permanent workers, data availability means we restrict our forthcoming analysis to often equating insecure work to temporary employment.
Over the last two decades, insecure work has gained increasing currency in the OECD countries. There are many reasons for this. This includes free choice whereby workers choose temporary work due to its preferable characteristics, such as flexibility, shorter hours, based on childcare arrangements, etc. Apart from free choice there are often three drivers identified in terms of rising levels of ‘non-standard’ work. First, globalisation has forced a greater worldwide division of labour, more volatile international market conditions, and employers forced to become more flexible in a bid to remain competitive. Second, demographic forces have resulted in rising female labour force participation rates and a growing motivation for new working arrangements that are compatible with childcare responsibility. Thirdly, cyclical reasons – policy makers often bid for greater labour market flexibility when unemployment is high.
NZ is an interesting case study for more research on temporary employment. According to the ‘OECD indicators on employment protection legislation’, NZ has the third lowest level of protective regulation for temporary workers, with a score of 0.92 compared to an OECD average of 2.07 (with 0 equating to least restrictions and a score of 6 indicating most restrictions).
Nevertheless, empirical research on the experiences of insecure workers and the links that can be established with their employment conditions remains negligible in NZ. Thus, a group of researchers from three universities in NZ was supported by Industrial Relations Fund (MBIE) to attempt to address this research gap. This report presents a range of perspectives and latest research on insecure work. A variety of angles are explored – from investigating the existence of an unexplained wage gap between temporary and permanent workers; to better understanding the contributing factors towards precarity (in a bid towards constructing an index of job precarity); to assessing the association between precarious employment and employer-provided training; and then finally to understanding the nature of the relationship between job insecurity and satisfaction at work. The data mainly came from the 2008 and 2012 Survey of Working Life, which represents a rich source of information on the employment conditions, working arrangements, and job quality of employed New Zealanders.