Academic journal article International Journal of Employment Studies

"Narratives of Flight": Accounts of Precarious Employment Relations and Emigration from Greece. A Critical Discursive Social Psychological Perspective

Academic journal article International Journal of Employment Studies

"Narratives of Flight": Accounts of Precarious Employment Relations and Emigration from Greece. A Critical Discursive Social Psychological Perspective

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

This paper aims to explore the ways in which young professionals in Greece working in precarious conditions: a) account for the decision of emigrating in an interview context; and b) narratively construct their agency and identity within these ways of accounting. Drawing on critical discursive social psychology (Wetherell 1998; Wetherell & Edley 1999) the study attempts to reach the above objectives by casting light on both the discursive practices as well as on the ideological resources that are prominent in the discourse on precarious employment relations and emigration in times of economic crisis.

THE NEO-LIBERAL REGIME OF PRECARIOUS EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS IN GREECE

There has been a widespread assertion among social theorists that in the last 30 years we have globally witnessed the advent of neoliberalism (eg Beck 1992; Berardi 2007, 2009; Boltanski & Chiapello 2010; Dumenil & Levy 2011; Furlong & Cartmel 1997; Ross 2009; Sennett 2005). A lot of academic debate and documentation worldwide has also been devoted to the concept of 'precarity' in neoliberal times: namely, the flexibilisation of the work contract and the proliferation of possible employment relations (for instance, Letourneux 1998; Gallie & Paugam 2002; Rodgers & Rodgers 1989; Standing 2011 2014).

'Precarity' is used in this study as an umbrella term to refer to a labour 'regime (1)' encompassing such irregular working conditions as, to name but a few, part-time employment, hourly wages, temporary or short-term contracts and undeclared labour: in general, forms of employment deviating from the 'standard employment relationship', which was developed under the aegis of legislation or collective negotiation and agreement (Rodgers & Rodgers 1989). Precarity can hence be defined as 'a cumulative combination of atypical employment contracts, limited social benefits, poor statutory entitlements, job insecurity, short tenure and low wages' (Lewchuk, De Wolff, King & Polanyi 2003: 23). Furthermore, Kalleberg places emphasis on the distress produced by precarious work, when he defines it as 'uncertain, unpredictable and risky from the part of the worker. Resulting distress, obvious in a variety of ways, reminds us daily of such precarity' (Kalleberg 2009: 2).

To theorise this global tendency, Guy Standing (2011, 2014) has suggested that in times of global crisis, we witness the rise of the precariat, a new global social class. Recent publications on precarious employment relations estimate that 40% of the Greek population has worked in precarious labour/bad jobs (eg Mouriki 2010). In addition, Kapsalis (2015) draws from ILO (2014) data to attest that in the years 20102014, undeclared labour as formally estimated by the officially appointed control authorities (the Special Agency of Insurance Control) started from 29.7% in 2010, only to skyrocket to 40.5% by 2013 and eventually decline to 25% by 2014. What is more, in the period 2009-2015 new contracts for part-time work increased by 329%, while job rotation contracts increased by 707% (Kapsalis 2015). According to the Labour Force Survey, the unemployment rate reached 22% in 2011, increasing to 25% in 2012 and continued to go up to 27.2% in January 2013 until its decrease to 24% in the last quarter of 2015 (INE-GSEE 2016). According to the recent report by the Institute of Work of the General Confederation of Greek Workers (INE-GSEE, 2016), it is estimated that the unemployment percentage for young people aged 1519 in Greece exceeds 58%, for people aged 20-24 amounts to 48% while for people 25-29 it reaches 34%. These data suggest that flexible and precarious employment patterns are becoming the norm in the Greek labour market, maximising employment vulnerability and its organisational and social consequences. Kesisoglou, Figgou and Dikaiou (2016) have also demonstrated how such a norm of precarity is constructed discursively as a 'banal' work regime for young people, impacting their subject positions (Davies & Harre 1990) and agency (Gershon 2011). …

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