THE DEMAND FOR INTERMITTENT WORK: DIFFUSION, CHARACTERISTICS AND DYNAMICS

28.11.2023

The intermittent employment contract provides that the employer, within the limits of the law, may use the employee's work performance in a discontinuous or intermittent manner. It is an extremely flexible form of work, often characterized by a low contribution to labor input and low pay, which represent, despite numerous attempts at regulation to protect workers, potential elements of high precariousness.

With this note, Istat releases some quarterly indicators on intermittent labour demand for the period from the first quarter of 2010 – the year from which harmonised data are available on all sectors of economic activity – to the second quarter of 2023. In addition to the number of job positions, information on paid hours and gross hourly wages is also disseminated.

In the period under review (Q1 2010 – Q2 2023), the intermittent contract experienced rapid expansion – temporarily slowed down by regulatory interventions aimed at containing its misuse – which was only slowed down by the economic crisis of the years 2012-2014 and, subsequently, by the Covid-19 health emergency. The number of this type of contract doubled between 2010 and 2022, while average monthly paid per capita hours (+31%) and hourly wages (+9%) grew more slowly. During the period analysed, the number of intermittent contracts increased by fixed-term contracts and, overall, the use of on-call positions in the professional services and business sectors increased fivefold.

In 2022, positions with intermittent contracts were 288 thousand on average per month and represented 2.1% of total employee positions; In 89% of cases, the qualification is that of a manual worker and in more than 83% the contract is fixed-term. More than 48% of intermittent contract positions are in the hotel and restaurant sector, where they account for almost 12% of total employment; in the professional and business services sector, they came to account for almost 3% (just under 19% of total intermittent workers).

Among intermittent workers, in 2022, the average paid monthly hours per capita amounted to 44.5 and the gross hourly wage was 11 euros. In the hotel and restaurant sector, the lowest value of hours is recorded (39.6; -11% compared to the average), while in the sector of professional activities and business support the lowest gross salary is observed, which reaches 9.12 euros (-17% compared to the average). These two sectors are also characterised by the highest share of intermittent forward contracts (86.8% and 84.2% respectively).

Intermittent work shows a high seasonality, with peaks in demand in the summer months – particularly evident in the hotel and restaurant sector – and in those close to the winter holidays, when it is concentrated in the retail sector. The third and fourth quarters of the year therefore recorded the highest work intensity, which, however, never exceeded 33 percentage points (i.e. three intermittent workers are needed to reach the hours of a standard full-time worker).

The hourly wages of intermittent workers show the highest values in the second and fourth quarters of the year (corresponding to the payment of the fourteenth and thirteenth months' salary, paid in relation to the total hours actually paid), a seasonality that, however, has weakened over time as a result of the rapid expansion of fixed-term contracts.

In the second quarter of 2023, the number of intermittent positions reached the highest value of the time series, equal to just under 312 thousand units, thanks to the strong expansion compared to the second quarter of 2022 (+6.1%); Hourly wages are also the highest in the series, with growth of +2.3% compared to the same quarter of 2022; On the other hand, per capita hours show a decrease compared to both the second quarter of 2022 (-1.6%) and the second quarter of 2021 (-2%).


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