“Companies are doing everything they can not to make gains that are hard to recoup,” Dr. Schneider said. “Worker power in the labor market is so far not paying lasting dividends.”
The changes that make work less remunerative, less stable and generally more precarious date back to the 1960s and 1970s, when the labor market evolved in two main ways. First, companies began to push more work outside the company – relying increasingly on contractors, temps and franchisees, a practice known as “cracking”.
Second, many companies that continued to employ workers directly began to hire them for part-time rather than full-time positions, particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors.
According to researchers Chris Tilly from the University of California, Los Angeles and Françoise Carré from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, the initial impetus for the shift to part-time work was the massive entry of women into the labor market. work, many of whom preferred part-time positions so they could be home when the children came home from school.
Soon after, however, employers saw a benefit in hiring part-time workers and deliberately added more. “A light bulb went on one day,” Dr. Tilly said. “‘If we expand part-time hours, we don’t have to offer benefits, we can offer a lower wage rate.'”
By the late 1980s, employers had begun using scheduling software to forecast customer demand and recruit staff accordingly. Having a large portion of part-time workers, who could benefit from more hours when stores were busy and fewer hours when business was slow, helped enable this practice, known as just-in-time planning.
But the arrangement subjected the workers to fluctuating schedules and unreliable hours, disrupting their personal lives, their sleep, and even their children’s brain development.