Expert opinions on precarious employment in Flanders

Kim Bosmans, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Stefan Hardonk, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Christophe Vanroelen, Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Fred Louckx, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

• Background. The concept of 'precarious employment' becomes more popular to investigate non-standard and flexible employment conditions. However, disagreement remains about the meaning of precariousness and which aspects of employment can be included in this concept. The purpose of this paper is to report on expert knowledge and views about how precarious employment can be conceived and becomes manifested in the Flemish labour market. Furthermore, we reflect on the extent to which these expert views coincide the conceptualisation of precarious employment that we made on theoretical grounds. • Method. Semi-structured interviews with experts having varying backgrounds and relevant specific knowledge were conducted using a topic-list. Thematic content analysis is applied to categorize the recurrent and common themes. • Results. When reflecting on the concept, the experts mentioned aspects referring to both the conditions and relations of employment. The following dimensions were cited: instability of employment, low income, limited training and development possibilities, workers' rights and benefits, formal collective bargaining procedures, unbalanced informal employment relations - vulnerability, and less favourable social relations at work. In addition, they also referred to bad working conditions, unappealing task contents and organisational features of work (night work, irregular hours - flexibility, and shift work) as being part of the precariousness concept. Besides to the dimensions, the experts identified ten types of employment where precariousness becomes particularly manifested in the Flemish labour market: temporary contracts, agency contracts, subcontracting, posting (hiring workers employed for foreign firm), informal work, part-time work, service voucher system, seasonal work, on-call work, and bogus self-employed work. • Conclusion. Precarious employment is understood in very different ways. We found 4 perspectives in the experts' discourses: a legalist perspective, a situational perspective, a subjective perspective, and a health consequences-perspective.

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Presented in Poster Session 2