Joan Benach, Alejandra Vives, Gemma Tarafa, Carlos Delclós and Carles Muntaner
João was 14 when he got his first job at a Brazilian bank. By the time he was 19, he was working part-time as an assistant to the board of directors of a multinational bank while working on a technical degree in foreign trade. He was earning about US$150 a month when he applied for a full-time position in the trade sector, but his application was denied because he was seen as too valuable in the position he held at the time. He then began to work on getting a university degree, but monthly payments cost more than what he was earning per month. When he saw his next transfer application for a different position in the trade sector denied, he left the university and decided to move to Canada. He felt that learning English would be a good way to improve his employment prospects.
Once there, he realised everything was more expensive than he had originally anticipated. Despite having only a tourist visa, João got a series of short-term jobs to support his English training. He worked brief stints as a carpet installer, an office assistant and, finally, as a bricklayer. It was in this final position that he earned CDN$29 an hour, over three times more than the minimum wage he’d earned in his previous jobs. Yet, as an undocumented worker, he was denied political, health and educational rights, and was constantly exposed to abuse by his employers and severe income insecurity. Moreover, the overlong work shifts, the exhausting nature of his tasks and a constant exposure to toxins took a substantial toll on his body.
João’s story, recounted by Denise Gastaldo in Employment, Work and Health Inequalities: A Global Perspective, is highly complex (see page 48 in this free e-book available at: https://www.upf.edu/greds-emconet/_pdf/Employmentweb_low.pdf). As he moves across occupational classes, pay grades and documentation statuses, the only constant is the precariousness of his employment situation. Yet precariousness is a concept that we are only beginning to grasp. Continue reading “What should we know about precarious employment and health in 2025? Framing the agenda for the next decade of research”