Non-standard Employment: Prospect or Precarity?

Lucille Michel Silvia Mattijssen

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD-Thesis - Research and graduation internal

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Non-standard employment (employment on a fixed-term contract, on-call contract or temporary work agency contract) has become increasingly more common in the Netherlands in the last two decades. As non-standard employment is generally considered to be inferior to permanent employment due to, on average, lower wages, fewer fringe benefits and training opportunities, a central question of research has become to what extent non-standard employment offers workers prospects of permanent, stable employment, or results in precarity of repeated unstable non-standard employment and unemployment. The aim of this dissertation is twofold. The first and central aim is to create a more nuanced image of the outcomes of non-standard employment by using a processual approach. The result of this approach is a typology of non-standard employment careers that classifies careers in terms of employment security and income security. This typology shows that it is not a matter of non-standard employment either offering prospects or resulting in precarity, but that both outcomes exist simultaneously: around 30% of workers have a career that offers both employment and income security, and thus offers prospects, while around 40% of workers have a career that has low levels of employment and income security, and thus results in precarity. More importantly, the typology shows that there are many more outcomes than just prospects or precarity, as some careers combine high levels of employment security with low levels of income security, or vice versa. Combined, almost 25% of workers have a career that deviates from the traditional image of prospects or precarity. With this more nuanced image of outcomes of non-standard employment I am subsequently able to address the second aim of this dissertation, which is to look into the factors that explain the outcomes of non-standard employment from three perspectives: the economic perspective, the sociological perspective, and the human resources perspective. For the economic perspective, I assess the extent to which level of education, the specificity of the field of study and the cyclical sensitivity of the field of study, and their interplay, affect the school-to-work transitions of school-leavers in the Netherlands. The results show that school-leavers from more specific fields of study are more likely to have careers with high levels of income security compared to school-leavers from more general fields of study. The effect of specificity is strongest for school-leavers at the ISCED 354-level and is stronger for school-leavers from cyclically sensitive fields of study. For the sociological perspective, I look into whether the occupational skill level and the types of tasks executed in the occupation determine whether non-standard employment offers prospects or results in precarity. The results show that occupations that require high-level skills do not preclude precarious careers with low levels of employment and income security. Routine tasks also not necessarily result in precarity, as routine cognitive tasks can have positive effects on employment and income security while routine manual tasks reduce employment and income security. For the human resources perspective, I analyse how employers’ strategies for using non-standard employment (screening, adaptability or cost reduction) affect the career outcomes of workers who work on non-standard employment contracts. I derive which strategies employers have for using non-standard employment from their non-standard employment practices. The results show that workers in firms with screening strategies have careers with higher levels of employment and income security, while workers in firms with cost reduction strategies have careers with low levels of employment and income security. The negative effects of working in a firm with an adaptability strategy remained limited, with career outcomes closer to those of workers in screening firms than to those of workers in cost reduction firms.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Pavlopoulos, Dimitris, Supervisor
  • Ganzeboom, Harry BG, Supervisor
  • Smits, Wendy, Co-supervisor, External person
Award date2 Nov 2021
Print ISBNs9789464214765
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2021


  • non-standard employment
  • flexible employment
  • temporary contract
  • sequence analysis
  • labour market
  • inequality
  • career
  • longitudinal analysis


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