Coping with Precariousness in Austerity Times

Sunday, 10 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Nuno ALVES, ISCTE-IUL, Portugal
Precarious employment has been the main obstacle in the transition of the Portuguese youth into adulthood in the last decades. This problem has been significantly amplified by the economic crisis and budget cuts affecting the Portuguese economy and society since the beginning of the global financial crisis. Continuous cycles of unemployment, precarious employment, underemployment and persistent low standards of living fostered by continuous waves of austerity measures have substantially eroded any glimpse of foreseeable hope on a better future for a significant part of the Portuguese younger generation.

Meanwhile, different strategies were devised and put in motion in order for this generation of young people to cope with this harsh present and probable future. This includes staying at the parent's’ home for longer than envisaged in an assisted-autonomy condition and hoping for a reversal of the current conditions; the mobilization for political action (institutional and/or direct) among other precarious workers in order to put some pressure for change; migrate to another country with more favorable conditions to earn a living and complete other steps in the transition to adulthood. However, for a significant part of the affected, precariousness has not been a transitory stage on their lives; it has evolved to an enduring condition lasting for a significant part of these people’s economic/professional activity. And this is a rather new circumstance for western post-war societies.

This paper is based on almost 100 interviews on young people's precariousness done for different research projects, including a number of follow-up interviews with protagonists of long precariousness 'careers'.