Young Workers’ Experiences of Non-Standard Employment in New Zealand
Young workers have been shown to have a significant presence in non-standard employment around the world (Hipp, Bernhardt, & Allmendinger, 2015; Peiró, Sora, & Caballer, 2012; Smith, 2018), and a considerable number of studies have offered explanations for why young workers enter non-standard employment (Baranowska & Gebel, 2010; de Lange, Gesthuizen, & Wolbers, 2014b; Imdorf, Helbling, & Inui, 2017). However, young workers’ experiences within non-standard employment are comparatively under-researched. The literature has highlighted that young workers, as with other workers in non-standard employment, experience a lack of control over their working time, impacting on their work-life balance (Moore, Tailby, Antunes, & Newsome, 2018; Woodman, 2012, 2013). Research has also suggested that young workers in non-standard employment experience age-based discrimination (Blackham, 2019; Mooney, 2016), and normalise non-standard employment (Moore et al., 2018; Mrozowicki, 2016). The lack of attention given to young workers’ experiences in non-standard employment is typified in New Zealand literature, where research has been limited to student populations, focusing on the interactions of work and study (Beban & Trueman, 2018; Richardson, Kemp, Malinen, & Haultain, 2013).
The purpose of this research is therefore to explore young workers’ experiences of non-standard employment in New Zealand. The study was designed using interpretive descriptive methodology (Thorne, Kirkham, & O’Flynn-Magee, 2004). Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 12 young people aged 20 to 24, with interview questions designed to explore their past and current experiences of non-standard employment. Participant metaphors were also elicited during interviews, to gain deeper insights into participants’ perceptions about their overall experiences of non-standard employment. The main findings of this study were that young workers in non-standard employment in New Zealand experience: 1) sub-standard relationships with their managers and employers; 2) lack of autonomy and control over their employment and working time; and 3) negative personal life impacts due to poor work conditions. The findings extend knowledge of several aspects of workers’ relationships in non-standard employment, including trust, treatment, and social status. Additionally, the research is consistent with findings in the literature that workers in non-standard employment, and specifically young workers, experience a loss of control over their working time (Beban & Trueman, 2018; McGann, White, & Moss, 2016; Moore et al., 2018; Woodman, 2012, 2013). The research also contributes to the understanding of how young New Zealand workers view non-standard employment, finding that they may normalise being in non-standard employment (Moore et al., 2018; Mrozowicki, 2016), but do not normalise non-standard working times, or lack of control over their working times. Overall, this study expands our understanding of what young New Zealand workers experience in non-standard employment, highlighting key areas where management of their experiences can be improved.