Stable work with regular and decent pay has been at the heart of New Zealanders leading secure and healthy lives. In the face of rapid technological change, the disappearance of particular jobs, the declining value of wages and the rise of part-time and casual work, there is now significant insecurity for many people.

In contrast, other workers are enjoying the flexibility of new working arrangements, contracting and being their own boss.

In the rapidly changing social and economic environment of the 21st Century businesses need to be adaptable and agile.  This means being flexible in the way they engage those who work with and for them. However “work” is more than the means to earn an income.  It is one of the ways people define themselves, develop self-worth, dignity and connect to their communities.

A hundred years ago the terms “worker” and “employee” were synonymous. However, today workers come in many forms. Employees, self-employed people, small businesspeople, contractors, at-home carers and volunteers are all vital components of the workforce and all have a stake in the effort to improve the quality and security of work.

Insecurity of work impacts not only on people’s income but the time they get to spend with their family and their ability to be active in their communities. It also impacts on their rights and responsibilities as a citizen – through political and civil participation – and their personal development – through education, recreation and cultural pursuits. Some groups face even greater insecurity including women, youth, Maori, Pasifika and older workers. We also face an ageing population which creates new challenges for work security and means we may need to lift the level of employment among older workers.

This paper looks at the three different kinds of security relating to work: job security, employment security and income security, and asks questions about how we get a balance between security and flexibility and how that affects particular groups such as older workers and women.  

This is one of six papers being produced as part of Labour’s Future of Work Commission.  The others cover Technology, Education and Training, the Māori and Pasifika workforces, and Economic Development and Sustainability.

These papers are designed to stimulate discussion and generate ideas for policies to achieve the objectives of the Future of Work Commission:

  • Decent Work
  • Lower Unemployment
  • Higher Wages
  • Greater Economic Security
  • High-Skilled, Resilient Workers

The Future of Work Commission seeks to ensure New Zealanders can confidently face the changing nature of work and have sustainable, fulfilling and well-paid employment in the coming decades.