The Precariat & Insider/Outsider in Industrialized Democracies

In a historical moment in which the borders are broken (symbolically speaking), the influences of individuals, groups, movements, ideas or policies generate new types of interactions in different realities. Few democracies conditions differ from each other; and one of the few differences are the “working conditions” that are part and build the industries in each country.

In the less advanced industrial democracies, industry survives based on labor conditions are no longer considered «crisis» to assume as everyday realities. In contrast, in the advanced industrial democracies, these same conditions re-acquire its dimension of «crisis» because it is not planned within their public police; one aspect which so far is making visible it`s existence.

With this short introduction I wanted to start this paper, stating that the working conditions (such as common element between industrialized and non industrialized democracies) is not a factor sudden or born as a reaction to the management of a “new” public policy (ies). It has been always there, except that for democracies is more «normal» to live with than with the other.

From this context and before talking about the theory of Insiders / Outsiders and how they shape the Precariat, is necessary to define what is “work” and their conceptual variations to understand how useful (if useful) within the industrialized democracies.

Based on the concepts presented by Desmond King and David Rueda (2008) in his article «Cheap Labor: The New Politics of» Bread and Roses «in Industrial Democracies”, I find that two types of work: standard and non standard.

Referring to the non-standard labors , I understand them from the description given by the authors King & Rueda as when they mention are those who «includes jobs with temporary and part-time contracts” (King and Rueda 2008).

To expand the concept, taking as reference the definition given by the International Labour Office when described as all kind of works «that falls outside the scope of a standard employment relationship, which itself is understood as being work that is fulltime, indefinite employment in a subordinate employment relationship” (International Labour Office, Geneva, 2015).

On the contrary, referring to the Standard labors I conceptualize them based on the description as «what the OECD calls» regular jobs «(ie, non-temporary jobs with part time non- Contracts)» (King, D., & Rueda, D., 2008).

Consequently, a new category is pretend by authors named «Cheap Work» and that may be applicable to both types of work previously: Low Pay in Standard Employment, Low Protection in Standard Employment and Cheap Labor in Nonstandard Employment (the latter being the case more serious because low income without any protection for workers).

It is in this scenario where Rueda gives a new component to the game board to define the concepts of Insiders / Outsiders. Speaking of the latter, I approach its meaning as a way «to define a pool of cheap labor Whose members share three Characteristics: low levels of pay, low levels of employment protection, if any; and low levels of benefits, if any” (Rueda, 2005), with the caveat that this type of work is within the category of non- Standard.

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In contrast, when talking about the Insiders, the author refers to those who do not belong to the group of Outsiders. That is, those who fall within the category of Labor Standard in any of its three variations Normal Standard Employment Pay, Low Pay in Standard or Low Protection in Employment Employment Standard.

Finally, the author proposes a series of conceptual bridges between concepts that fails to deepen beyond its mere mention. This is the case of relations existing between the concepts of Insiders and Outsiders or Labors Standard and Non-Standard Labors; a dichotomy between local citizens and foreigners, assuming the outsiders as a threat to the stability and sustainability of the welfare states of industrially developed democratic countries.

Lastly, it is due to the situation described that can link to this «threat group» of stability who enjoy (lucky if they have no tradition in society) of a Standard-Labor with the birth of a new class in the contemporary society; the Precariat.

Conceptually, the «Precariat» refers to a new class made up of people who have a condition of existence without predictability and security in the medium and long term type. As it is referenced in the text «The Precariat-The new dangerous class» author Guy Standing (2014):

«A proletarian class of industrial workers who lack their own means of production and therefore sell its workforce to live» (…) «a concept applies to the condition of lack of job security, ie , intermittent employment or underemployment”.

This sequence of concepts are useful to understand what, as explained in the introduction to this work, has existed in other parts of the world but it begins to be more relevant in the industry advanced democracies.

Mainly, it helps to describe a reality that has been evolving for years and has ceased to be absolute (ie, black or white) and started taking into account the nuances between one position and another.

Namely in this case in particular, the different ways of working, different forms of the welfare state depending on the types of work and different working conditions (in law and beyond) that are “between the lines” when we talk about levels of quality of life and employability in industry advanced democracies.

The understanding of the issues proposed by both theory Insiders / Outsiders as in the Precariat, leading contemporary political stop thinking too distant ideals, to invite them to reflect on the present reality of a globalized world; applies equally in political terms as so in social and economic terms.

Thus, public policies are able to avoid the reactive actions (faint responses to a coming crisis) to be located in the reflective and planning actions that allow them to adapt their industrially advanced democracies regulations and plans – rigid and idealistic – in some with greater adaptability taking into account the global dynamics and migration trends.

Must be borne in mind that the dynamics generated from the condition of «Precariat» and Outsiders are not static. They are dynamic and constantly evolving with increasing interactions.

Because of this situation, it is also appropriate to stop observing the situation through the eyes of the states with industrialized democracies to see them through the lens sufferers of this reality. Based on the previous argument, it is worth proposing a new way of looking at the situation from a purely political perspective as a reaction or response to a series of public policies (such as labor flexibility), to observe them with a largely causal approach or contexts social and economic.

A problem of «political dimensions» has different variables that affect their development and adaptation to changing situations.

Thus, a subject like Precariat belongs not only to the political sphere (in overall  regulation of specific situations), but is highly influenced by economic pressures to bring this condition: confrontation between the interests of Insiders and Outsiders, questioning and cessation of confidence in democracy as a guarantor of protection of individual and group rights, speculation among the rights and duties of foreigners – legal or illegal – to local citizens, business closures and their transfer to industrial democracies less advanced fewer regulations that require them to operate, etc.

In turn, these economic influences become social tensions that could stoke nationalist, xenophobic or rejection feelings for ending conflict not only with human components but with legal aspects (international agreements) and again with a political dimension incapable of operate effectively.

With this list of situations I wanted to state with the aim to articulate (or propose through this work) a new understanding of the conflicts generated from particular situations, such as working conditions and work in industrialized democracies, not focus only on the political dimension of the conflict, but that is addressed in a coordinated manner with the other proposed dimensions.

This proposal with the purpose of not only reacts to a situation, but to be in the ability to understand (not just at the time when the situations arise) early enough to reflect and propose plans reaction multidisciplinary (political, economic and / or social) that would not only cushion the consequences, but avoid them or turn them into opportunities1.

To conclude, I believe that both theories still has much to embrace change and different aspects for pointing (at most, referring to chapters read to this class).

Firstly, concept like those presented in the “Precariat”, or the separation between Insiders and Outsiders are shown as problems into closed societies, assuming that there are still closed societies.

Disregarding the new forms of interaction between the societies and the exchange of symbolic values of the “citizens of the world 2”.

Hence, the situations presented, product of working conditions and types of work are considered as unknown realities, feared and rejected in the democracies with developed industry (or not placed on the public stage as a latent reality) but outside them, reside in a normal situation.

Second, both texts through their concepts, tend to assume that the human elements from outside the borders of the industrialized democracies are a threat to the internal stability of the country, which allows us to infer that closed societies, perfect in their social, political and economic operation can only be destabilized if and only if there is an external agent to be adjusted.

In this view, once again, I understand the industrialized democracies that function as a bubble surrounded with outside world realities which as stated earlier, I consider myself a conceptual or lack of precision mistake.

And finally, I believe that the division between Insiders / Outsiders as agents involved in the formation of the “Precariat” is too general and trends towards polarization of positions.

Labor dynamics within industrially advanced democracies are not unrelated to «Cheap Work» in any form, so ensure that the problem is only focused on the Outsiders is a mistake; it isnot a situation that is imported from other places, but has evolved from within itself and becomes visible mostly with the foreigners.

In short, any person whether domestic or foreign, can be considered Insider / Outsider and any Insider / Outsider is eligible for the «CheapWork» and therefore, as part of a “Precariat” but its cradle in Democracy industrialized.


  • Rueda, D. (2005). Insider–outsider politics in industrialized democracies: the challenge to social democratic parties. American Political Science Review, 99(01), 61-74.
  • Standing, Guy. «The Precariat-The new dangerous class.» Amalgam-časopis studenata sociologije 6.6-7 (2014): 115-119.
  • King, D., & Rueda, D. (2008). Cheap labor: the new politics of “bread and roses” in industrial democracies. Perspectives on Politics, 6(02), 279-297.
  • INTERNATIONAL LABOUR OFFICE, GENEVA, (2015). Non-standard forms of employment. Report for discussion at the Meeting of Experts on Non-Standard Forms of Employment. [online] Geneva: International Labour Organization 2015, pp.1 -3. Available at: http://–ed_protect/—protrav/—travail/documents/ meetingdocument/wcms_336934.pdf [Accessed 27 Nov. 2015].
  1. economic dimensions we can find in Australia; country that has historically invited young people around the world to settle there as nationals, legally and officially supported in the process, to boost its economy and constantly renew their partnership, having planned control mechanisms in migratory movements.
  2. Based on that phrase by Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD) «I was not born in one corner, my homeland is the whole world.»

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