Precarious work and precarious lives: a case of the care, arts and hospitality sectors in Greater Manchester

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis investigates the causes and consequences of precarious work through case studies of the care and hospitality sectors in Greater Manchester. Precarious employment is increasing, but knowledge is still lacking of how precarious work is shaped, why it takes different forms between sectors and groups of workers, and what its consequences are for workers’ lives. Taking a multidimensional approach to precarious work, we go beyond ideas that precarious work is confined solely to atypical employment, and show that precarious work and precarious lives need to be considered as separate (even if connected) phenomena that should not be conflated with each other. Thus, this thesis sought to understand the factors shaping employers’ strategies, how these create differing forms of precarious work, and the circumstances under which workers’ experiences of precarious work lead to precarious lives. This last objective required an exploration of the interactions between state policies, employer strategies, and the dynamics of the households in which workers are embedded. The project focused on two strategically important sectoral case studies (care and hospitality) for Greater Manchester, the city-region to which the case studentship was linked. Drawing on grounded theory methodology, the findings stem from case studies in three hospitality organisations and one care facility, in which company documents were analysed, and seventy-two interviews were conducted with thirty-seven workers and twenty-five managers (with twelve being interviewed twice). The data were triangulated to ensure a full understanding of the different shapes taken by precarious work. A longitudinal element was added as, following the first wave of COVID-19, second interviews were conducted to understand how employers’ strategies had changed and what had led to deteriorating conditions of work. The findings are presented across three separate but interconnected journal articles. The first investigates how employers’ stereotypes of workers’ characteristics led to them shaping and reshaping precarious work, according to the job and the group employed. The second investigates how the COVID-19 crisis revealed the fragility of employers’ voluntary improvements in conditions of work. The third paper investigates the ways in which precarious work and precarious lives are experienced by workers, building a framework that identifies how workers manage income and time uncertainty as they balance precarious work, precarious households, and their interactions with the state.
Date of Award1 Aug 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorGail Hebson (Supervisor) & Jill Rubery (Supervisor)


  • Employment Relations
  • Labour market segmentation
  • Industrial Relations
  • Employer Strategies
  • Hospitability
  • Precarious lives
  • Precarious work
  • Social Care

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