A Multi-Level Analysis of the Role of Occupations and Tasks for Non-Standard Work

Friday, June 24, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
420 Barrows (Barrows Hall)
Chiara Benassi, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, United Kingdom
Non-standard work has been increasing across all advanced economies in the last thirty years, and has become the object of a growing body of research. One of the main research streams  has looked at the factors explaining the use of non-standard work and its diffusion. There has been extensive research on the role of industrial relations institutions at national level (e.g. dismissal protection), sectoral level (collective bargaining) and firm-level (e.g. union density), which might provide incentives or constraints to employers’ casualization strategies (e.g. Shire, Mottweiler et al. 2009). Other authors have looked at how sector- or firm-level characteristics (e.g. firm size, volatile and seasonal production) affect the use of non-standard work (e.g. Kalleberg, Reynolds et al. 2003). At the individual level, research found that workers’ qualifications (among others) are an important predictor for the incidence of nonstandard contracts: the higher or the more specific the qualification the more likely workers are to be on a permanent contract (e.g. Gebel and Giesecke 2008).

The concept of skill “specificity”, however, has been widely criticised and overall formal qualifications have been argued not to be a good proxy for what workers actually do in the workplace. Indeed, there is increasing evidence that non-standard work has been spreading also among the high-skilled workforce (e.g. Bidwell and Briscoe 2009). Recent research has then tried to improve our understanding of the use of non-standard work from two new perspectives. On the one hand, scholars taken an occupational perspective. In particular, Marsden (2010) illustrated the phenomenon of “extended entry tournaments” in British occupational labour markets; furthermore, in their book Eichhorst and Marx (2015) suggested that occupations have a separate effect from sectoral, firm-level or individual variables across Europe due to the distintive “occupational logic”. On the other hand, research in human resource management examined more closely the tasks workers on non-standard contracts perform and found that these workers have been employed in positions requiring specific technical knowledge (but not role-specific) and characterised by individual-based technology and individualised tasks (e.g. Bidwell 2009; Lautsch 2002).

This paper brings together these two perspectives and further investigates the effect of occupational labour markets and of tasks on the use of nonstandard contracts. By using a multi-level regression model, it will analyse at the occupational level the effect of occupational closure (e.g. educational credentials, licensing, see Bol 2014); at the individual level, it will test the relationship between on-the-job tasks and nonstandard contracts, by adopting a task-based approach, which is widely used in economics to analyse the causes of job polarization and wage inequality. The empirical analysis will be based on the workers’ surveys of the German Institute of Vocational Training and Education.