Public lecture audience

The fractured future of work?

Instability during employment also has the potential to carry over into the retirement years.
A panel of experts discussed what the future of work might look like as part of LSE's Beveridge 2.0 Festival

A stable career and retirement could be at risk in the future due to the rise of precarious, short-term employment – according to experts from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

A panel discussion was recently held as part of LSE’s Beverage 2.0 Festival, which aimed to bring the Beveridge report on the welfare state into the modern day. Academics from the Department of Management discussed the growth of self-employment and the impact this will have on work, retirement and the effectiveness of trade unions. 

Dr Jamie Woodcock, who worked undercover in a call centre and has conducted research on Deliveroo and Uber, explained the way work is already changing due to the growth of the ‘gig economy’. This is characterised by short-term, self-employed work often run by technology – as seen with Deliveroo and Uber.

Jamie described how this new kind of work is proving “incredibly precarious” for employees. They are missing out on benefits such as pension contributions and sick pay, due to a “bogus self-employment categorisation”.

This kind of instability during employment also has the potential to carry over into the retirement years, as this new type of work is impacting on the way people save for the future.

“Precarious work will lead to precarious retirement,” said Rebecca Campbell, PhD student in the Department of Management. Rebecca noted that workers who fall under the self-employed category are “very vulnerable to their retirement”, as their employment status prevents them from saving in the same way as their full-time counterparts.

These sort of issues would have traditionally been dealt with by trade unions. However, changes in the world of work are influencing the role unions can play.

Ruth Reaney is an LSE Fellow who conducts research into work, employment and trade unions. “Trade unions have been affected and had difficulty adjusting to the changing working relationship”, said Ruth. She went on to explain how the changing nature of work has resulted in more diverse worker interests, making organisation much harder.

But despite these concerns, the panel also discussed the potentially bright future for employees, retired people and the work environment.

Listen to the event podcast.

Thursday 22 February 2018