Demand for flexibility or generation of insecurity? the individualization of risk, irregular work shifts and Canadian youth

  • Mills M
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Abstract

The individualization of risk is alleged to have generated a rise in flexible and insecure forms of non-standard employment, which in turn create 'new inequalities and insecurities' that permeate all social groups. Using longitudinal data from the Canadian Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics (1993-98), this study empirically assesses this claim by examining the levels of insecurity, composition and voluntary nature of jobs with irregular work times. The institutional structures of the individualist employment and liberal welfare regimes and education system are considered as important filters. Findings demonstrate that we have not entered a 'post-class' society, but that established inequality structures of social class, gender, and minority status persist. Jobs with irregular shifts have an internal hierarchy that produce different levels of economic, employment relation and social integration insecurity. The majority of youth in these jobs face higher insecurity and view non-standard shifts as involuntary, supporting the notion that risk is increasingly shifted from the state or firm to the individual. The broader implications for social life are then considered followed by the discussion of whether these are 'stop-gap' jobs or the creation of a 'precarious proletariat'. © 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd.

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