Configurations of atypical and precarious employment in Switzerland

TitleConfigurations of atypical and precarious employment in Switzerland
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsBühlmann, F
JournalLIVES Working Papers
Place PublishedLausanne
Type of ArticleResearch paper
Keywordsatypical employment, configurations, precariousness

Also in Switzerland, atypical and precarious employment has become an increasingly important issue in the last 30 years. Atypical work is deemed to break up social cohesion, to render impossible a long term biographical planning, to corrode one’s character and to lead to social suffering of an ever increasing proportion of the Swiss population. At the same time atypical employment includes a series of very heterogeneous forms of work and is difficult to capture theoretically and empirically. In this paper we propose a configurational approach in order to overcome these difficulties. We conceptualise the labour market as a field and investigate the data of the 2004 sweep of the Swiss Household Panel with a multiple correspondence analysis. We discover four configurations of atypical work and then relate these configurations to possible explanatory factors (individual, occupational, familial) and possible consequences (satisfaction, well-being, political attitudes). Our findings show that only one, very specific configuration of atypical work leads to social suffering and vulnerability: jobs that combine the absence of biographical prospects, forced flexibility and low wages. These are jobs we can call precarious – and not only atypical. People in these positions are devoid of all possible resources, are dissatisfied and politically disillusioned. Other atypically employed fractions use their specific resources to deploy compensation strategies which render atypical employment socially bearable.