The emotional trade-off between meaningful and precarious work in new economies



Publication Details

Patulny, R., Mills, K., Olson, R., Bellocchi, A. & McKenzie, J. (2020). The emotional trade-off between meaningful and precarious work in new economies. Journal of Sociology,


© The Author(s) 2020. The contradictory work environments of new economies in late modernity are associated with a range of emotional experiences, requiring diverse emotion management strategies. Late modernity offers the capacity to pursue happy, safe, rewarding, and meaningful work for the privileged few; a potential trade-off between stressful meaningful and boring precarious work for a greater number; and the prospect of non-meaningful, precarious work for many in the new economy characterised by short-term contracts, gig work, precarity, and anxiety. This study draws on data from the 2015–16 Australian Social Attitudes Survey to examine workers’ emotions in various combinations of meaningful and precarious employment, and the degree to which these emotions are managed. It finds that it is best to have secure meaningful work, worst to have highly precarious work, and slightly better to have safe but alienating than risky meaningful work, in terms of avoiding often hidden negative emotions.

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