The age of insecuritisation: Insecure young workers in insecure jobs facing an insecure future


Rapid political-economic changes in recent decades have led to increasingly insecure youth labour markets and the weakening of state protections, resulting in growing precarisation for young people. This article examines how student-workers from post-1992 UK universities on zero-hour contracts in hospitality experience insecuritisation and societal turbulence as a result of continual neoliberal flexibilization of labour markets. It shows how existing personal insecurity—reinforced by limited state protection, inexperience and socio-economic background—is intensified by the addition of job insecurity, underpinned by transactional employment relations and workplace power asymmetries. It argues that these experiences can further precarisation of already insecure individuals and shape perceptions of future labour market insecurity. Drawing on 35 semi-structured interviews, the article posits that insecurity is structurally entrenched in the lives of many student-workers and zero-hour contract work can further exacerbate it by sustaining existing inequalities, dialling down aspirations and hindering prospects of social mobility.

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