Sustaining precarity: critically examining tourism and employment

Richard N.S. Robinson*, Antje Martins, David Solnet, Tom Baum

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

173 Citations (Scopus)


There is consensus that both the social, or people, dimension of sustainability and the workforce are neglected in the tourism literature and policy. Premised on the understanding that sustainability is inherently set in neo-liberal discourses of progress, development and growth we set about to investigate tourism’s performance principally relative to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), no. 8 (UN, 2015), which calls for ‘decent work’. Adopting critical approaches, and presenting a review of 14 industry reports from global, regional and national levels, we demonstrate that tourism sustains precarity vis-à-vis its employment practices. Precarity, an emerging sociological concept applied in the workforce context, speaks to the insecurities of work in capitalist economies. Our findings suggest that, contrary to academic and practitioner narratives championing humanist and sustainable tourism futures, tourism (employment) sustains precarious employment but also contributes to deep social cleavages and economic inequalities. Our paper concludes by mapping precarity into other SDGs which mark out precarious lives and propose a recalibration of the three sustainability pillars.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1008-1025
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2019
Externally publishedYes

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