Precarious employment in occupational health
Precarious employment in occupational health – an OMEGA-NET working group position paper
by Bodin T, Çağlayan C, Garde AH, Gnesi M, Jonsson J, Kiran S, Kreshpaj B, Leinonen T, Mehlum IS, Nena E, Orellana C, Peckham T, Seixas N, Vanroelen C, Julià M
Article related to the NIVA course on Non-Standard Employment, Work Environment and Health, 9th – 11th of May 2023
Objectives: The aims of this position paper are to (i) summarize research on precarious employment (PE) in the context of occupational health; (ii) develop a theoretical framework that distinguishes PE from related concepts and delineates important contextual factors; and (iii) identify key methodological challenges and directions for future research on PE and health.
Methods: This position paper is the result of a working group consisting of researchers from the EU, Turkey and the USA, who have discussed the issue over the course of six months (October 2018–April 2019), meeting both online and face-to-face on several occasions.
Results: The lack of a common theoretical framework of PE hinders it from becoming an established part of occupational and public health research. There are also issues regarding operationalization in surveys and registers. Further, previous research on PE and health suffers from methodological limitations including inadequate study designs and biased assessments of exposure and outcomes. PE is highly dependent on contextual factors and cross-country comparison has proven very difficult. We also point to the uneven social distribution of PE, ie, higher prevalence among women, immigrants, young and low educated. We propose a theoretical framework for understanding precarious employment as a multidimensional construct.
Conclusions: A generally accepted multidimensional definition of PE should be the highest priority. Future studies would benefit from improved exposure assessment, temporal resolution, and accounting for confounders, as well as testing possible mechanisms, eg, by adopting multi-level and intersectional analytical approaches in order to understand the complexity of PE and its relation to health.