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RecensionsBook Reviews

Precarious Lives: Job Insecurity and Well-Being in Rich Democracies, By Arne L. Kalleberg (2018) Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 242 pages. ISBN: 978-1-5095-0649-1 or 0650-7 (for pb)

  • Isik Urla Zeytinoglu

…plus d’informations

  • Isik Urla Zeytinoglu
    Professor Emeritus, DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

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The book is divided into four parts. Part one provides the theoretical foundations for explaining precarious work and presents the major differences in the social welfare and labour market institutions and policies in the six countries selected to study here. The second part of the book provides the common indicators of precarious work: nonstandard work arrangements such as temporary and involuntary part-time work, and subjective and objective indicators of job insecurity. Country differences in the manifestations of the precarious work are provided in this part of the book. In the third part of the book, country dissimilarities in three dimensions of well-being are examined: economic insecurity; the transition to adulthood and family formation; and subjective well-being. This is one of the most interesting parts of the book. In this section, we see how the variations in social welfare protection institutions and policies play a major role in differences in economic insecurity in rich capitalist economies. The effects of these protections and policies (or their lack of) on individuals are examined for young workers in establishing their work and personal lives, careers and families. Lastly this section examines the country differences in subjective well-being, which is an overall indicator of the quality of life. How the generosity of social welfare protections, along with strong active labour market policies enhances subjective well-being in a country is presented in this part. The final part of the book discusses how workers, social movements, and governments responded to the rise of precarious work. The author also outlines the elements of a political and social contract between workers, their employers, and governments that have the potential to collectivize the risks of precarious work. The author also provides suggested actions needed to implement such a contract. The conclusion section summarizes main findings of the book and provides possible future scenarios for employment relationships. This book makes a valuable contribution to the literature on employment relationships. By focusing on countries that have similar, that is, capitalist, political and economic foundations, the author shows how different responses to precarious work are provided based on the country’s institutions and policies, that is, their cultural foundations, and how the relationships between actors in the economic, political and social system are established. The different responses to precarious work in the country, then show why the effect of precariousness is different on individuals and their families in the countries studied. The author argues that, though the rise and persistence of precarious work is creating anxiety and uncertainty for individual workers, organizations, and governments, this challenge could be responded to with policies and practices that promote both economic growth and workers’ well-being. The book should be of interest to a broad international audience of industrial relations and human resource management specialists, economists, sociologists, political scientists, as well as legal scholars. I would strongly recommend this book to the readers of RI/IR who are interested in precarious work, flexibility, workplace changes, and the role of institutions and policies in these changes.