Precarious Lives

Arne L. Kalleberg. 2018. Precarious Lives: Job Insecurity and Well-Being in Rich Democracies.  Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.  ISBN 978-15095-0649-1  (cloth); 978-15095-0650-7 (paper)

Employment relations in advanced, post-industrial democracies have become increasingly insecure and uncertain as the risks associated with work are being shifted from employers and governments to workers.

This book examines the impact of the liberalization of labor markets and welfare systems on the growth of precarious work and job insecurity for indicators of well-being such as economic insecurity, the transition to adulthood, family formation, and happiness, in six advanced capitalist democracies: the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Spain, and Denmark. The cross-national analysis demonstrates how active labor market policies and generous social welfare systems can help to protect workers and give employers latitude as they seek to adapt to the rise of national and global competition and the rapidity of sweeping technological changes. Such policies thereby form elements of a new social contract that offers the potential for addressing many of the major challenges resulting from the rise of precarious work.

“This book addresses one of the most pressing issues of the day: how precarious work is leading to precarious lives. By drawing on experiences in six diverse countries, it provides a potentially optimistic agenda for policy to halt or reverse the damage. In calling not only for wider social protection for all engaged in all forms of work but also for action, supported by worker organization, to change employer practices and stem the growth of precarious work, Kalleberg offers a useful alternative policy framework to the ultimately defeatist basic income approach where regulation of employers and of work itself is downgraded.”

Jill Rubery, The University of Manchester

“This latest book by Arne Kalleberg offers a powerful conception of precarity, how it takes distinct forms under different employment regimes, and – most important perhaps — how the rise of precarious work has reached deep into the private realm, threatening the well-being and family lives of workers. Sure to become a classic in the field.”

Steven Peter Vallas, Northeastern University

 Table of Contents


Part I. Theoretical Foundations

  1. The New Age of Precarious Work
  2. Social Welfare Protection and Labor Market Institutions

Part II. Manifestations of Precarious Work

  1. Nonstandard Employment Relations
  2. Job Insecurity

Part III. Dimensions of Well-Being

  1. Economic Insecurity
  2. Transition to Adulthood and Family Formation
  3. Subjective Well-Being

Part IV. Responses to Precarious Work and Lives

  1. Politics and Policies of Precarious Work



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