Precarious Work and Future Careers in the Context of the Gig Economy in South Africa and China

Project status


Youth increasingly face precarious work, such as internships and zero-hour contracts, as their first work experience. The growing “gig economy” has contributed to this precarious work. In upper and lower-middle income countries, where youth unemployment rates are growing, such jobs are seen as a panacea; envisaged as fostering pathways to later secure work. Yet there is limited evidence about whether this is the case. By analysing the labour market trajectories of a sample of youth over time, using equivalent panel datasets, and interpreting these within the labour market and social policy context of China and South Africa, this project will assess whether assumptions that engagement in precarious work leads to later secure careers hold true. Looking back to assess youth labour market trajectories since the 2008 economic crisis offers an opportunity to inform policy in the context of the post-COVID-19 recovery period and the growth of the gig economy.

Research team

Dr Lesley Doyle, University of Glasgow; Professor Lauren Graham, University of Johannesburg, South Africa; Dr Geng Wang, Tianjin University, China

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