An Anatomy of Zero-Hour Contracts in the United Kingdom
Zero-hour contract (ZHC) jobs—jobs that lack a guaranteed minimum number of hours—regularly make headlines. We derive and explore three theoretical accounts using the 2014 Labour Force Survey. Drawing on theories of flexibility and work stratification, we find ZHCs are highly concentrated in low-skilled labour-intensive service occupations and in smaller workplaces. Further, we show that they are more prevalent amongst younger and older workers, and contrary to human capital predictions, also amongst middle-educated workers. Finally, we estimate the labour market outcomes of ZHC jobs. Drawing on labour market disadvantage theories that view ZHCs as an extreme form of precarious employment, we find ZHCs are associated with indicators of inferior job quality—even compared to other forms of nonstandard employment. Overall, although we find no evidence that ZHCs are a particularly pervasive feature of the UK labour market, future growth cannot be ruled out given long-term polarizing employment patterns.
16th, March , 2016