The Future of Work: The Significance of Non-Standard Work in the Twenty-First Century


  • Paul Spoonley Massey University Auckland



Across the OECD, there is a significant decline in standard/typical work or employment relations and the growing presence of what is broadly (and inadequately) referred to as non-standard work. It is most obviously represented by part-time and temporary employment, accompanied by a growing variety of fixed term and contract arrangements, own account self-employment, agency-mediated and portfolio work. An increasing proportion of the workforce do not work under traditional employment contracts, at an employer’s place of work for specified and regular hours or with any certainty of long-term employment. The broad question is whether the work patterns which prevailed for the second half of the twentieth century represented a unique period of welfare and employment conditions and that we are now seeing major structural change that will eventually lead to new ways of working for most in the labour force. The rise of nonstandard work appears to be a response by employers to contain labour costs and to introduce a greater degree of numerical flexibility Oust-in-time labour), to externalise employment and, to an extent, management, to screen workers before employing them on a permanent basis and to develop new organisational strategies and networks such as joint arrangements and alliances. But there are also major policy and welfare considerations, especially as standard work has defined employer-employee relations and responsibilities, as well as access to state provisions. One effect has been to transfer costs and responsibilities (eg training, worker and their dependent's welfare) from a firm to individuals. However, non-standard work also reflects a choice by some to enhance personal autonomy in the work environment and to develop a better work-life balance. Non-standard work is not necessarily sub-standard work. There is considerable variability in the conditions and choices faced by non-standard workers. Some of this variability will be highlighted here, based on recent research on skilled non-standard workers in New Zealand. 1


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Paul Spoonley, Massey University Auckland

Labour Market Dynamics Research Programme