On Tuesday this tweet by was being shared widely among Irish tweeters.
Everyone loves a good news story, and a reduction in temporary contracts is surely a good news story?
But is it?
There are two issues to consider. Firstly, while an increase in numbers on permanent contracts looks great, not all permanancy is the same: in countries with weaker workers protection (UK, USA, Ireland), in which is is easier to fire people, the permanency has a very different meaning than permeancy in countries with strong workers protection (Germany, Netherlands, Belgium) (1).
To see if things are improving in Ireland, we need to compare like with like. We need to compare those workers whose permeancy is meaningful, as in, a permanency that grants a certain level of job security.In Ireland, this would mean looking at levels of permanency among public sector workers
If we do that it looks like there is good news - there is an decrease of workers on temporary contacts in the Irish public sector.
But this brings us to our second issue. the statistics can be deceptive as there are two ways the numbers on temporary contracts could be reduced. .
It could be that more permeant contracts are offered? Hurrah! a good news story (if you are in a country with good protective legalisation).
It could be that people on fix-term contracts are loosing their jobs and their contracts aren’t renewed. Boo, a bad news story
In Europe, sadly the decrease in temporary contracts in the public sector is a bad news story.
The fall in number of temporary workers is due in part to the termination of temporary contracts in the public sector employment.
As a recent report on restructuring public sector states
“Data from the EU LFS show that the concentration of permanent work contracts has changed in the public sector and that non-standard contracts cover around 13% of the EU28 public sector workforce … Figure 22 confirms that the levels of temporary employment have been slightly decreasing following the crisis (with the exception of the healthcare sector, where the usage of temporary contracts remained stable), which can be explained mostly by budgetary reasons and because it is easier to terminate temporary contracts.” (2)
Temporary workers losing their jobs is not a good new story.
(1) OECD EPL (Employment Protection Legalisation) Indicators http://www.oecd.org/employment/emp/oecdindicatorsofemploymentprotection.htm
(2) Restructuring In The Public Sector http://eurofound.europa.eu/sites/default/files/ef_publication/field_ef_document/ef1470en.pdf