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Prekariat is a sociological term for a social grouping that is characterized by uncertainty about the type of gainful employment of its members. The evaluation of this uncertainty as precarious accentuates the aspect that living conditions are difficult, threatened or can lead to social decline. The term “ precariat” is used to describe groups that have declined or are threatened with social decline due to their living conditions, emphasizing those characteristics and tendencies that portray the group as precarious. A single person in the precarious is called a precarious .


Prekariat is a new word that is a mixture of the adjective precarious and the term proletariat . The adjective precarious has the meaning uncertain because it is revocable . The term proletariat was coined by the social scientist Karl Marx , he used this term to define the lower working class in a society. The adjective precarious came into the German language during the Napoleonic period from the French word précaire, which is derived from the Latin precarius ('bittweise obtained') and precari ('pleading to ask').

In Roman law , a precarious property was the free transfer of a movable or immovable property for free revocation by the owner at any time. A contractual relationship between the owner and the user (precarists) was not established by the transfer. The precarist could use the thing or use it, but he had to expect revocation at any time. In this respect, a precarium was a bit series , derived from the word preces in its meaning as a request.


The idea of ​​describing a group that is socially low-ranking as a precariat is in itself old: this included, for example, dishonest professions , the ragged proletariat , the socially despised . The idea goes back to a concept by Amadeo Bordiga , according to which the proletariat emerging during the industrial revolution as well as in the time of industrialization had to define themselves as people without means . Today precariat is seen as a new conception of the post-industrial social sciences . The Italian political scientist Alex Foti put forward the thesis: "The precariat is in post-industrial society what the proletariat was in industrial society."

The sociologists Robert Castel and Klaus Dörre recognize in the phenomenon of a return of social insecurities the fact that the social question has reappeared at the beginning of the 21st century. Previously, in the past decades of the 20th century, the Western European economies had developed a high level of economic prosperity . On the basis of strong growth periods after the Second World War , a system of collective insurance was created for the normal employment relationships that prevailed at the time : These include in particular collective agreements , social laws , statutory pension insurance and labor law .



In 2006 the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung drew up a picture of the precarious: In this research context, the precarious are the representatives of a new lower class of the left and the hopeless. They cannot keep up with the accelerations of capitalist modernity and are the losers of modernization that need treatment in terms of welfare and social policy . They are denied access to stable employment, they have no usable educational qualifications, their social relationships are not stable or do not correspond to the ideas of the middle class that observes, provides and regulates them. The orientation of these precarious workers towards performance, advancement and discipline leaves something to be desired from the normative perspective of the majority society. Specific employment biographies and mentalities of disengagement from the social whole are the result. The decisive difference between the precariat and the proletariat is, of course, that the precarious are not politically trusted. They are an anonymous, fragmented mass, a specimen of "negative individualization", which "can be declined in terms of lack - lack of reputation, security, secure goods and stable relationships."

Precarious work

Ver.di Seniors May 1st, 2015 Hamburg

According to the definition of the International Labor Organization , precarious employment is when the employment status provides only little job security and little influence on the concrete structure of the work situation, the protection under labor law is only partially given and the chances of a material livelihood security by the person concerned Work are rather bad.

In 2008, a research group based in Jena presented a similar definition of precarious employment: According to this, an employment relationship can be described as precarious if the income level of those employed there, in terms of collective security and in terms of operational integration, are below the currently recognized standard. This situation goes hand in hand with a loss of meaningfulness, social recognition and planning security. Accordingly, such a definition is related to normal standards such as the standards of a normal employment relationship.

The Swiss trade unionist Alessandro Pelizzari, who examined the individual way of dealing with the insecurity of precarious workers, also defines four characteristics for precarious work situations:

  1. Low job security, which is only associated with a short-term time horizon;
  2. lack of influence on the work situation and lack of operational integration;
  3. lack of protection through social and labor law norms;
  4. difficult livelihood due to a low income level.

These four characteristics generally apply to the large number of temporary workers , which are therefore included in the precariat and the number is tending to increase.

The Federal Statistical Office differentiates between atypical and precarious employment. In the Federal Statistical Office, atypical employment is understood to mean all dependent employment relationships that have one or more of the following characteristics:

Precarious employment can go hand in hand with atypical employment, but is not to be equated with it. Employment relationships are described by the Federal Statistical Office as precarious if they are not suitable for ensuring a person's livelihood or social security in the long term. When classifying employment as precarious, the personal circumstances of the employed person, such as the previous course of working life and the household context, must also be taken into account. Not every gainful activity that does not take place within the framework of a normal employment relationship harbors the risk that the person employed in this way threatens to permanently relegate to the precariat, or is an expression of the fact that this has already happened.


On the basis of empirical research, Klaus Dörre, together with colleagues from the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the Recklinghausen Research Institute Work, Education, Participation (FIAB) has developed a typology of gainful employment, which he divides into three zones:

  1. Zone of decoupling
  2. Zone of integration
  3. Zone of precariousness

The authors count precarious employment as a temporary integration (the hopeful), secondly as a permanent arrangement (the realistic) and thirdly as a defused possibility (the satisfied) to the zone of precarity. This subdivision of the precariousness zone also makes it possible to include workers who, although not in dependent employment, may nevertheless be threatened in their existence. This will expand the circle in the following way:

Academic precariat

In this context, Dörre points out that three quarters of the approximately 106,000 academic staff at German universities are only employed on a temporary basis ( see also: Academic mid-level staff ). Here, demanding work is carried out within uncertain framework conditions. The situation also came to a head in the course of several university reforms around the 1990s (reduction of permanent positions in academic mid-level staff), " University Development East " after reunification and through the " Bologna Process ". In addition, more and more academic employees only receive part-time or underfunded student assistant contracts for full-time work at universities or are forced to continue their work even without paid employment when the funds are running out ( "academic precariat")).

Educational precariat

The term Bildungsprekariat is used inconsistently. On the one hand, it was primarily used to describe a group that is uneducated, so to speak "poor in education". On the other hand, the term was used for a grouping with academic degrees. In contrast to the academic precariat, she is not employed in academic teaching, but in the private sector for a limited period or dependent on social benefits . So you are in financially precarious circumstances despite high educational qualifications.

Other professional groups

The entire area of continuing education is just as precarious : only 14% (142,000 people) have an employment relationship that is subject to social insurance contributions . Over 74% (771,000 people) work in this sector as freelance workers or self-employed.

The author Paula Fürstenberg , who comes from an East German family of artists, counts herself as a creative precariat .

According to statistics from the German Trade Union Confederation , the types of employment described as precarious continued to spread in 2007: Compared to 2003 there are twice as many (650,000) temporary workers ; 600,000 are in a one-euro job ; 440,000 full-time employees rely on Hartz IV . 1.3 million people work as top-ups , and their number is increasing. In June 2010 there were just over 1.4 million replenisher in Germany.

Berthold Vogel, project manager at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research , developed another typology on the basis of two qualitative studies from 2002/2003 and 2007/2008:

  1. Labor market drifters
  2. Job nomads
  3. scout

With this classification, however, the changeable work history is emphasized rather than the (presumably) permanently well below average income and assets of those affected.

Labor market policy

The measures presented in August 2002 by the Commission for Modern Services on the Labor Market in the so-called Hartz Concept and then implemented are part of the recent history of the German precariat: These measures have partially loosened labor law restrictions and newly created diverse forms of employment and status. This reorientation of state labor market policy has left the guideline of a security policy and has contributed to growing instability and insecurity in working life.

Lower class study

According to the study published in December 2006 by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Gesellschaft in the reform process , the precariat includes the subgroups of the suspended precariat , the authority-oriented low-skilled and some of the self-sufficient traditionalists . The study cites the number of 6.5 million Germans for the suspended precariat (which corresponds to eight percent of the total population). Frank Karl from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung emphasized that the term new lower class did not appear in the study. Nevertheless, the mass media discussed this study even before it was published under the title Lower Class Study .


In 2006, the Society for German Language chose the term Prekariat in 5th place for the word of the year .

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Prekariat  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Alessandro Pelizzari: Dynamics of precarization. Atypical employment relationships and milieu-specific coping with insecurity. UVK-Verlag, Konstanz 2009; P. 49.
  2. a b c Robert Castel, Klaus Dörre (ed.): Prekarität, Abstieg, Ausschluss. The social question at the beginning of the 21st century. Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2009, pp. 11–18.
  3. Prekarität und Prekariat - Signal words for new social inequalities. Federal Agency for Civic Education , accessed on June 20, 2018 .
  4. ^ Friedrich Kluge: Precarious . In: Etymological dictionary of the German language. De Gruyter, Berlin New York 1975
  5. ^ Max Kaser , Rolf Knüttel: Roman private law. Beck, Munich 2008, p. 109.
  6. ^ Robert Castel: The return of social insecurity. In: Robert Castel, Klaus Dörre (Hrsg.): Prekarität, Abstieg, Exclusion ... The social question at the beginning of the 21st century. Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2009, p. 23f.
  7. ^ Berthold Vogel: Prekarität und Prekariat - Signal words of new social inequalities . From politics and contemporary history . July 30, 2008
  8. Source Gerry Rodgers from 1989 in Berthold Vogel: The precariat - a new social situation? In: Robert Castel, Klaus Dörre (Hrsg.): Prekarität, Abstieg, Exclusion. The social question at the beginning of the 21st century. Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2009, p. 198 u. 412.
  9. Gerry Rodgers, 1989. In: Alessandro Pelizzari: Dynamiken der Prekarisierung. Atypical employment relationships and milieu-specific coping with insecurity. UVK-Verlag, Konstanz 2009, p. 38.
  10. "Low wages and employment 2010"
  11. ^ Klaus Dörre: Prekariat im Finanzmarkt-Kapitalismus. Robert Castel, Klaus Dörre (Ed.): Prekarität, Abstieg, Ausschluss. The social question at the beginning of the 21st century. Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2009, pp. 48–52.
  12. ^ Ulrich Brinkmann, Klaus Dörre, Silke Röbenack, Klaus Kraemer and Fredric Speidel: Prekäre Arbeit. Causes, extent, social consequences and subjective forms of processing insecure employment relationships . Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Bonn 2006.
  13. Annett Krause .: Lecturers: Precarious in the lecture hall - the number of lecturers has grown by 40 percent in ten years. You teach for free or for almost nothing and still hope for a career at university. Zeit-Online, March 2011, accessed October 17, 2017 .
  14. ^ Stefan Laube .: Academic everyday life: private lecturers are the Uni-Prekariat, In: FAZ-Online, February 29, 2012. FAZ-Online, February 29, 2012, accessed on October 17, 2017 .
  15. Anna-Lena Scholz .: The lecturers at German universities are poorly paid and not even covered by social security. When will that finally change? Zeit Campus Online, August 20, 2016, accessed October 17, 2017 .
  16. Stefan Laube .: Prekariat of teaching: starvation wages at universities. FAZ-Online, November 14, 2014, accessed on October 17, 2017 .
  17. Maximilian Grosser .: Precarious situation - more and more academics cannot make a living from their university positions. Deutschlandfunk: Campus & Carriere. January 11, 2008, January 11, 2008, accessed October 17, 2017 .
  18. SONJA VOGEL: THE DECLARATION OF LOVE: The departed . In: The daily newspaper: taz . June 20, 2015, ISSN  0931-9085 , p. 10 ( [accessed on October 23, 2019]).
  19. ^ Educational federalism - "We are breeding an educational precariat". Retrieved October 23, 2019 .
  20. ^ Heike Schmoll: Education policy: Without the secondary school . ISSN  0174-4909 ( [accessed October 23, 2019]).
  21. Stay cool. Retrieved October 23, 2019 .
  22. Portrait - Beside the track. Retrieved October 23, 2019 .
  23. Jörg Neunhäuserer: Unemployed academics: The intellectual elite at the employment agency . In: The time . October 24, 2012, ISSN  0044-2070 ( [accessed October 23, 2019]).
  24. Martin Heckmanns. In: City of Mülheim an der Ruhr, March 8, 2012, accessed on October 23, 2019 .
  25. Matthias Kaufmann: Unemployed academics - hitting the pot in no man's land - temporary workers with state exams, engineers in the scullery: Even academics can become unemployed - and faster than they suspect. Anyone who is once forced to sell themselves below their qualifications is trapped. Spiegel Online , September 19, 2013.
  26. Friday 2020/11: [1]
  27. ^ Berthold Vogel: The precariat - a new social situation? In: Robert Castel, Klaus Dörre (Hrsg.): Prekarität, Abstieg, Exclusion. The social question at the beginning of the 21st century. Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2009, pp. 202–205.
  28. ^ Berthold Vogel: The precariat - a new social situation? In: Robert Castel, Klaus Dörre (Hrsg.): Prekarität, Abstieg, Exclusion. The social question at the beginning of the 21st century. Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2009, p. 205.
  29. ^ A b Gero Neugebauer: Political milieus in Germany. The study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Dietz, Bonn 2007.