1. Job and Employment Security

There are many ways to define the different types of security, this paper uses those of Wilhelm and Tros.1 Job Security relates to being able to attain and retain a particular job for a particular employer, being able to rely on that job continuing to exist and having access to due process and natural justice should issues related to dismissal or redundancy arise. Employment Security is about being sure you can provide for yourself and your family with income derived from paid work related to your skills and qualifications. It means being able to easily change job and/or employer either for personal reasons such as career advancement or as a result of redundancy or restructuring. 

Many professional people work on a short-term and sometimes medium-term basis on different projects rather than maintaining continuous employment with a single employer.  Engineers and IT professionals are just two groups who lack job security but they generally have employment security because their skills are in demand. However many occupations that may have had job and employment security in the past (such as accountants and journalists) are losing their job security as technology replaces aspects of their work. This will begin to affect other occupations as further changes in technology, global and local economic shifts and environmental pressures occur.

Issues to consider:

  • Self-employment is an option that an increasing number are choosing ahead of ‘employment’. This can provide the opportunity to explore areas of personal interest, be innovative and give them the flexibility they need to balance work with other life priorities. However, there are many barriers to becoming your own boss. Giving up a regular income is a significant obstacle. Another is a lack of mentoring and support. This is especially true for women, Maori, Pasifika and people with disabilities.
  • Others also choose to work in short-term contracts to provide greater flexibility and a better work/life balance. 10 per cent of workers are on temporary contracts.2 People with caring responsibilities or those who are moving out of the workforce are choosing this as an option. However, it requires a secure financial base to allow for changes in income.
  • There is a need to explore and promote other options and models for people to have job and/or employment security in the future work environment such as cooperatives. As the United National Department of Economic and Social Affairs states: “Cooperatives help to create, improve and protect income and employment opportunities of their members by pooling their limited individual resources to create business enterprises. This enables them to participate in production, profit-sharing, cost-saving or risk-taking activities.”3
  • In a rapidly changing world of work, security may best come from protecting employment rather than a specific job.  One example of this is the Danish model of flexicurity which emphasises employment and income security along with job flexibility. Employers get the benefits of a highly flexible workforce and the state invests heavily in ensuring people have a basic income, quality housing and healthcare regardless of their employment status, and opportunities to reskill during periods of unemployment and support to find paid work.4

If it is likely that people will more regularly move in and out of work in the future, then periods of unemployment should be seen as opportunities for upskilling.  We should not only commit to providing financial support to those out of work and in need, but commit to investing in them so they are better equipped to move into more secure, meaningful employment opportunities. Particular emphasis should be placed on sectors where there is increasing demand for well-skilled and qualified workers while ensuring attention is given to people’s areas of interest and potential. The focus must be on long-term employment outcomes and income security for families. People must be able to live and thrive not just survive. 

In order to provide the advice and support required to move people into more secure, meaningful employment opportunities we should investigate ways of professionalising the advice and support given to those who want to upskill.  A renewed focus on lifelong learning and opportunities for training and upskilling adults (including workplace training) will be required to ensure workers are prepared for changes to existing sectors and/or transition into other thriving sectors.  All New Zealanders should be encouraged and given the opportunity to realise their career and educational aspirations at any stage of life. (This will be covered in more detail in the paper on Education and Training.)

[1] Wilthagen and Tros, 2003, Dealing with the “flexibility-security-nexus”, http://dare.uva.nl/document/2/57875

[3] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Cooperatives in Social Development, http://undesadspd.org/cooperatives.aspx

[4] Read more about flexicurity at http://denmark.dk/en/society/welfare/flexicurity/