Precarious employment and pension planning

Description

Private and workplace pensions have historically been provided in the UK by large employers in unionised sectors but more recently reforms have made workplace pensions compulsory for almost all employees, including those employed by micro-employers. These developments mean that private pension providers now need to engage with those whose employment and work patterns are much more precarious, and who are on much lower incomes, than under earlier systems when pensions for these socio-economic groups were broadly seen as the responsibility of the State. This change is taking place in a context where precarious and insecure employment constitutes the fastest growing section of the UK labour market. We now have c. 6.5 million working in the so-called ‘gig economy’ – self-employed, on zero hours contracts, or agency workers. Precarious workers are known to have lower than average levels of pension savings and income and generally experience low-pay, high levels of part-time working and self-employment; they often lack access to workplace schemes, and earn insufficient amounts to save adequately or financially plan for later life. This means that sociological, ethnographic and anthropological insights into the meaning of money, having long been at the margins of pensions research, have suddenly taken on a new urgency, with interest from policy makers, NGOs, and the industry itself into the insights that these methods can offer. This proposed qualitative study will investigate how precarious workers manage their economic insecurity, and how economic insecurity influences financial decision making and planning.
Effective start/end date27/01/2026/01/23