Unemployment is falling, but job security is not increasing

Eurostat headquarters, Luxembourg (European Commission, Public domain)

The percentage of employees without the certainty of continued employment, because their contracts are concluded for a period of no more than three months, turns out to be resistant to positive changes in the economic situation.

In the EU member states this share has remained at a stable level of 2.3 per cent. In Poland it stands at 4.5 per cent and is slightly decreasing.

Eurostat considers employment to be precarious in cases where the duration of contracts does not exceed three months. Meanwhile, in its Labor Force Survey the Polish Central Statistical Office (GUS) divides workers into those employed for an indefinite period of time and those employed for a defined period of time, without determining the duration of the concluded contracts. On the other hand, the labor market practices in Poland are more diverse than the statistics would indicate. Accurate and equally systematic documentation does not include, e.g. contracts of mandate, which are the least stable from the point of view of the employee, not to mention the legally questionable cases of contracts for a specific task masquerading as contracts of mandate.

Among the member states of the European Union, the highest level of short-term employment is recorded in Croatia (8.4 per cent of all the employed in 2016). From the point of view of local workers, the situation in Croatia has been gradually deteriorating in recent years. Still in 2008 (with the total unemployment rate lower than at present) the share of short-term employment was more than twice lower at only 3.5 per cent.

A high share of short-term employment – which may come as a surprise – is also recorded in France (4.8 per cent), as well as – which is probably not surprising – in Spain (4.7 per cent) and in Poland (4.5 per cent).

The share of short-term contracts recorded in Slovenia is similar to that found in Poland, while it is slightly lower in Finland. In comparison with 2008, the situation has not changed much. In Poland, an increase from 4.2 per cent in 2008 to 4.8 per cent in 2014 was followed by a decrease in the share of fixed-term contracts in the subsequent two years.

Within the EU there are countries in which short-term contracts are practically non-existent, as their share does not exceed 1 per cent of all the employed. Those countries include Germany (0.5 per cent in 2016), the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic (0.4 per cent each). The record low share of short-term contracts in the EU is recorded in Romania – only 0.2 per cent. Among the European countries remaining outside the EU, an equally low share of fixed-term contracts is recorded, among others, in Norway, which is often chosen by Poles seeking work abroad (0.6 per cent).

The share of short-term contracts in the European Union is similar for both women and men (in both cases at 2.3 per cent). In Poland, short-term contracts are slightly less frequent in the case of women (4.3 per cent) than in the case of men (4.8 per cent). In the EU member states, the lowest level of employment security is found among workers taking up employment in agriculture, fishery and forestry (where 8.1 per cent of all contracts are short-term). This share is even higher in Poland and reaches 9.9 per cent.

In Poland, employment in the field of telecommunications, the financial and insurance sectors is much less stable than the average for the European Union. In Poland, 5.8 per cent of contracts concluded in these sectors are short-term, while the EU average is 2.0 per cent. Like in the EU, a much greater sense of job security is found in public administration, education and health care. The share of short-term contracts in these sectors in Poland is only 1.7 per cent, while the EU average is 1.6 per cent.

Eurostat’s statistics on job security concern the year 2016, whereas the BAEL Labor Force Survey prepared by the Polish Central Statistical Office covers the third quarter of 2017.

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