Young people's experiences of precarious and flexible work – Evidence Review

This evidence review presents findings on young people's experiences of precarious and flexible work. These work conditions included where young people had for example zero hours contracts, low wages, lack of progression opportunities, dissatisfaction with current employment, or varying hours.

Chapter 2: What are the circumstances whereby young people find themselves in precarious work / contractual conditions? 

This section of the review reports on RQ3: What are the circumstances whereby young people find themselves in precarious work / contractual conditions? 

As reported later in the review in Chapter 3, it is evident that a large number of workers feel under pressure to accept a job even if the terms of employment do not suit, and that some also feel pressure to work additional hours or at short notice, even if it disrupts their life. However there was limited evidence relating to the reasons people choose, or find themselves in, the types of employment highlighted in Chapter 1 as potentially precarious. Evidence referenced for this RQ does not relate specifically to those aged 16-24, or Scotland only workers; however does provide some insight into decision making for those in one of these types of work – the gig economy.

CIPD report To gig or not to gig? Stories from the modern economy, explored the reasons people choose to work in the gig economy through an online survey with UK adults aged 18-70 (CIPD, 2017). 

In this study a minority (14%), gave their reason for working in the gig economy as being because they could not find a ‘traditional’ job. Results showed that financial circumstances impacted on responses to this question, with those who described themselves as finding things difficult or very difficult financially more likely to be working in the gig economy due to not being able to find a traditional job than those who felt they were in a comfortable financial situation. The report also found that a high proportion of gig economy workers (58%) were permanent employees, engaging in gig economy activity on top of their more ‘traditional’ employment to top-up their income.

The biggest attraction of working in the gig economy was that it provided people with a supplementary income (32%). This was followed by:

  • 25% stating it was a short term solution to help to achieve an end goal, e.g. buy a car, holiday etc.
  • 21% stating it provided them with a back-up so that they didn’t have to worry about not having the security of a regular income

A short-term solution (35%) and providing a back-up (29%) were significantly more likely to be given as reasons by those aged 18-29 than those aged 30-50 (16-17%). Assumptions were made that these findings are likely to reflect the high proportion of students working in the gig economy, who may be seeking to balance learning with earning, and so particularly benefit from the flexibility of this type of work.

According to CIPD’s research, gig economy workers were less likely (50%) to state that income is the reason they work, compared to other types of worker (80%). Other workers were also more likely to cite a greater number of reasons for working compared with gig economy workers. This may be due to the fact that only a quarter of gig economy workers said that the gig work they do was their main job.



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