Conference Agenda

RS11_09: Emerging forms of precariousness: Hybrids between employment and self-employment
Friday, 23/Aug/2019:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Renato Miguel Carmo, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL)
Session Chair: Annalisa Murgia, University of Milan
Location: UP.4.206
University of Manchester Building: University Place, Fourth Floor Oxford Road


Employment Quality As A Health Determinant: Cross-Cutting Boundaries Between Types Of Waged And Self-Employed.

Jessie Gevaert1, Karen Van Aerden1, Deborah De Moortel1,2, Christophe Vanroelen1,3

1Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium; 2Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf, Germany; 3Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona, Spain

The aim of this study was to research differences in mental well-being and general self-rated health between different forms of waged- and self-employment, using the concept of employment quality. Employment quality refers to the conditions and relations of employment and is an under-studied component of broader ‘job quality’. For that purpose, data from the European Working Conditions Survey, round six (2015) was analysed. We restricted the analyses to the EU27. Latent Class Cluster Analysis was used to construct typologies of employment quality for both the waged- and the self-employed. Then, the association between the constructed typologies, intrinsic job quality and the health outcomes was studied (using logistic regression). The cluster analyses revealed ten types of jobs with clearly diverging levels of employment quality. Workers belonging to low-quality types of work experienced poorer health and well-being. This was especially the case for self-employed with low employment quality. These results remained, controlling for intrinsic job quality characteristics. The findings of this study implicate that employment quality should be taken seriously as a health determinant – and is cross-cutting traditional distinctions between waged- and self-employed.

In the Name of Passion: Passionate Work and Precariousness in Food and Beverage Italian Micro-entrepreneurs

Alessandro Gerosa

University of Milan, Italy

Thanks to a sector characterized by a rapid transformation toward an omnivorous taste for authentic experiences and a historically rooted tradition of coffee bars and food, to open a small food or drink business in Italy has become one of the most accessible entry-points to a humbler and labor-intensive variant of the «creative economy». This study analyses micro-entrepreneurs in food and beverage sector in Milan, Italy through ethnographic material composed by 40 interviews and participant observation at events hosted at their businesses, using the concepts of passionate work and precariousness as theoretical lenses. Three main results are discussed: micro-entrepreneurs in their everyday work realize a «passionate sacrifice», as they declare themselves willing to sacrifice economic value for ethical value in the production of the goods or services sold to the customers, that is both a voluntary act that tries to transform labour into attractive labor and an obliged ritual to be a recognized member of the market niche and survive as micro-entrepreneur; to frame their work as fulfilled «in the name of passion» becomes fundamental to identify themselves as a different category from more traditional businesses in the same field and to offset the more manual-intensive component of their job that persists and the stress related to precariousness and the generally low economic earnings; the choice to become a micro-entrepreneur, facing high risks and precariousness, depends on the desire to achieve a satisfying job in comparison with employed labour, considered often similarly precarious but without the benefits of being «employers of themselves».

Perceived Employment and Life Precariousness: A Study in Croatia, Italy and the Netherlands

Chiara Bassetti1, Filip Majetić2, Miroslav Rajter3

1Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, University of Trento; 2Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar; 3University of Zagreb

This contribution presents the results of a quantitative research on perceived precariousness and concealed/vulnerable self-employment in Europe. In particular, the study focuses on four dimensions: income and welfare, work conditions and disempowerment, vulnerability in current life and future-oriented self-perception, and representation and rights exercising. The data are to be collected between February and May 2019 via online questionnaires (one for precarious employees and one for the self-employed, yet with largely overlapping or similar topics and questions). Empirically, the research covers Croatia, Italy, and the Netherlands, as it is part of the H2020 Commonfare / PIE News project, whose activities involve those countries as representatives of Eastern, Southern, and Northern Europe respectively. This also means that the results of the quantitative study will be interpreted on the basis of the qualitative research conducted within the above mentioned project from October 2016 to June 2017 with people in precarious life conditions. The goal of the quantitative study is to offer a typology of precarious and vulnerable workers by way of cluster analysis, yet this is grounded on a deeper understanding of the ways in which employment precariousness and the general deregulation of work arrangements affect people’s everyday life, relationships, and long-term plans. The fourth research dimension, moreover, aims to tackle the in/adequacy of traditional union techniques and strategies, and the ways in which people experiencing precariousness regard union representation.

Fighting The Precarious Conditions Of Platform Workers. Calls For A Renewed Social Dialogue In Europe

Paolo Borghi, Annalisa Murgia, Petr Mezihorák, Mathilde Mondon-Navazo, Rossella Bozzon, Pierluigi Digennaro

University of Milan, Italy

Digital platforms are redefining the structure of the society as a whole, reshaping both economic and social practices (Van Dijck, 2018). The expansion of work organised through online platforms has facilitated the increase of a precarious and hyper-individualised workforce, mainly self-employed. This phenomenon has led unions to reconsider their position on organising digital labour, and has brought to the emergence of other collective actors that support such category of workers (Conaty et al, 2015). The power-resources approach allows to understand how unions are renewing themselves by mobilising existing power resources and developing new ones (Schmalz et al. 2018). In our contribution, we took inspiration from this theoretical framework to analyse how different organisations are supporting platform workers. The study is based on empirical material gathered through a cross-national ethnography (Mangen, 1999) conducted in France, Italy and Slovakia. For four months (September-December 2018) we investigated fifteen organisations, including trade unions, professional organisations, cooperatives and groups of activists. The findings show the different combination of structural, organisational, institutional and societal powers mobilised by these organisations to support gig workers. Finally, how these collective actors are pushing for a renewed social dialogue will be discussed.


Conaty, P., Bird, A. and Ross, P. (2015). Not Alone: Trade Union and Co-Operative Solutions for Self-Employed Workers. Manchester: Co-Operatives UK.

Mangen, S. (1999). Qualitative research methods in cross-national settings. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 2(2), 109-124.

Schmalz, S., Ludwig, C., & Webster, E. (2018). The power resources approach: developments and challenges. Global Labour Journal, 9(2), 113-134.

Van Dijck, J., Poell, T. & Waal M. d. (2018). The platform society. New York: Oxford University Press.