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Precarious Employment in Europe: A Comparative Study of Labour Market Related Risk in Flexible Economies, Final Report

Project ID: HPSE-CT-2001-00075


The ESOPE project focused on precarious employment (PE). It sought to study how PE is understood in both scientific and policy terms, what is its incidence, and how it could be explained, paying particular attention to sectoral and policy factors. To do this, the project undertook three main strands of research: literature review, policy analysis, and empirical research through case studies.
Three dynamic and expanding service sectors were the object of in-depth case study research: Call Centres, studied in Spain, Italy and Germany; the Performing Arts, studied in France and the UK, and, through existing surveys, at the EU-15 level; and Domiciliary Care for the Elderly, studied in Spain, France, Italy, and England.
In the five countries of our study there is usually a reference, often implicit, to a standard or norm of employment, and what falls below such a norm (and can thus be considered precarious) is expressed in each country by means of different notions, e.g. insecure, poor quality, casual or indeed precarious employment. Yet, such a norm is comparatively weak in the UK, and the term PE is rarely used in the UK and only in some scientific contexts in Germany.
PE was understood as a multidimensional concept involving diverse combinations of insecurity and instability, poor working conditions, insufficient pay, and lack of protection. Operationally, however, this notion presents a major problem: how to combine these dimensions in an integrated measure - a challenging problem also obtaining in the case of the notion of 'quality of employment' to which no satisfactory solution, as far as we known, has been provided in the literature.

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