Precarious Work and Future Careers: Examining the transitions of young people in China and South Africa

Type Report
Title Precarious Work and Future Careers: Examining the transitions of young people in China and South Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2023
Publisher Precarious Work and Future Careers Project
City Glasgow
Country/State Scotland
In developing contexts, in the absence of growing economies and social welfare systems, many young people are forced to pursue work in the informal labour market (ILO, 2020) or under precarious conditions. Precarious working conditions have become more pronounced since the emergence of the “gig economy” (MacDonald and Giazitzoglu, 2019) but are often viewed as a panacea for youth unemployment in developing countries. Longer-term effects of internships and other low paying and precarious training
opportunities has received research attention in developed contexts (D’Abate, 2010; Satikoff, 2017) but far less is known about their longer-term career effects in developing country contexts. In South Africa, many policymakers and researchers see the gig economy as a cure to the massive youth unemployment problem. They suggest that any work experience is positive for young people. But there is limited evidence to confirm whether early precarious work experiences lead to later stable job attainment.
In China, although the term ‘precarious employment’ is a relatively new concept that was first introduced by the labour authority of Shanghai in 1996, it has been gaining increasing attention in China since the late 1990s as a result of the massive downsizing in the state sector, the rapid expansion of the private economy, and the migration of surplus rural labour to urban areas. Over 60% of the Chinese workforce was engaged in precarious employment (e.g., contingent, part-time, hourly-paid) (Wu and Cai, 2006; Zhou, 2013). Young migrant workers and university graduates are prominently affected by job informality (Schucher, 2017). This study assessed what the longer-term outcomes for young people who are involved in precarious forms of work are, and what policy recommendations can be made as a result.

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