Vulnerable employment – what happens when workers lose their jobs?
These is increasing evidence that the most vulnerable workers are set for the toughest experiences of unemployment. Job losses at the mini factory today are different from some other recent redundancies – workers are on agency contracts for services, so despite having many years employment at the firm have no entitlement to redundancy pay or to any formal notice of their impending unemployment. These workers will not have a lump sum to fund retraining, or to buy them a little time to consider their options and find a job that can make use of their skills. Instead their talents will be lost to the economy and they will be forced to take the first jobs that they can find – or to spend months on benefits. And they are not alone – temporary employment has fallen sharply since the recession started (and although this month’s statistics showed a small increase in rates of temporary work, there has been a corresponding rise in the proportion of temporary workers who can’t find permanent jobs).
There is also evidence that migrant workers facing unemployment are experiencing severe poverty. A recent survey by Homeless Link has found an increase in destitution among Central and Eastern Europeans in London – between November 2007 – November 2008 the percentage of London’s rough sleepers who were from the eight accession countries increased from 18 per cent to 25 per cent of the total population. Unemployed migrant workers are seldom eligible for welfare benefits, so as they find themselves out of work they can also find themselves in extreme deprivation.
And as our recession report shows, young people, often in the lowest paid work, have seen disproportionately high rises in their unemployment rates over recent months – and will face lower benefit entitlements than older workers as they lose their jobs.
Insecure when they are in work, and the worst off when they are out of it, vulnerable workers have not felt the benefits of a decade of growth. But as the recession bites they will now be among the hardest hit. Lets hope that the uproar about banking bonuses is the start of a wider concern for economic justice, because the treatment of these workers deserves immediate debate.