Opportunities and risks of temporary employment

The ERC supports excellent frontier research of creative researchers. What is unique about your project SECCOPA?

It is not a single particular feature, but a whole series of features that make the SECCOPA project exceptional. Previous research on the consequences of temporary employment has been relatively fragmented, focussing mainly on the consequences for careers. The SECCOPA project broadens the perspective by analysing the consequences of temporary employment in different areas of life. A special feature is that not only the individual consequences are analysed, but also the consequences in the family and household context. Special attention is also paid to analysing the temporal dynamics of temporary employment and its consequences. A particularly unique feature of the SECCOPA project is the strong international comparative perspective, which also includes non-European countries. In this way, I was able to build on the special trademark of my previous research, namely the inclusion of countries that have so far received little attention in Western-orientated research.

What are the aims of your project?

The opportunities and risks of temporary employment are the subject of controversial debate in science and society. The aim of the SECCOPA project is to gain new empirical insights into the socio-economic consequences of temporary employment. The aim is to gain a better understanding of how temporary employment affects careers, income and poverty risks as well as subjective well-being. The focus is not only on the individual, but also on the families and households in which a person lives. Research to date has focussed heavily on a few Western countries. A strong international comparative perspective should provide new insights into the role of temporary employment in different country contexts.

The ERC emphasises it’s bottom-up approach which ensures that funds flow into new and promising areas of research with a greater degree of flexibility. How would you describe the research design of your project SECCOPA?

The SECCOPA project implements a quantitative analytical-empirical research design in which theory-led hypotheses are derived and empirically tested on the basis of nationally representative survey data. The focus is on panel data, which is characterised by the fact that the same households and the people living in them are surveyed every year. Even if panel data do not solve the causality problem, they offer more opportunities to isolate the cause-effect relationships of interest as well as possible. In addition, panel data enables a dynamic perspective. For example, the short, medium and long-term consequences of temporary employment can be differentiated. Furthermore, it is possible to analyse the effects of transitions between employment statuses, e.g. from unemployment to temporary employment or from temporary to permanent employment, or even of entire sequences of employment statuses, so-called sequence data.

The research design of SECCOPA is also characterised by a multi-level design. It is not only about the individual consequences of temporary employment, but also about the consequences in the household context. For example, it analyses how temporary employment affects the well-being of the partner. Or whether a household's risk of poverty decreases equally when a household member switches from unemployment to temporary employment compared to a switch from unemployment to permanent employment. An international comparison analyses how the consequences of temporary employment are influenced by the institutional, cultural and structural context of the countries.

Why is the University of Bamberg the ideal host institution for your research?

The University of Bamberg is one of the leading institutions for sociology in Germany and also has a very good international reputation. Although this is not one of the ERC's evaluation criteria, it offers an attractive environment in which to set up such a project. Here in Bamberg, our project team could connect very well, especially as Bamberg sociology, like the SECCOPA project, is characterised by a strong analytical-empirical orientation. Another aspect that speaks in favour of Bamberg as an ideal location is the excellent support from the university board of management. When I was appointed to the University of Bamberg, I was already motivated by the university board of management to apply for an ERC grant. During the preparation and realisation of the project, I received excellent support from the university board of management in dealing with administrative problems.

Researchers from all over the world apply for ERC funding and it’s famous for being very competitive. What inspired you to submit an application?

That was what particularly appealed to me. I sought out this challenge and faced up to the tough competition for this prestigious funding. The encouragement I received from my former mentors and the university board of management was certainly also helpful. In addition, my previous success in acquiring and realising two large international collaborative projects reinforced my belief that I could acquire and manage such a project. When I then found an exciting project idea that perfectly matched my profile as a scientist, I knew that the time was right to apply.

What are the three pieces of advice you would like to share with future applicants?

Firstly, you have to be convinced yourself and ideally be really passionate about the project. In the first stage of the review process, the application is scrutinised very critically by external reviewers and in the second stage you have to answer questions in front of a large panel. You can only succeed there if you can convincingly demonstrate what your innovative contribution is and that you are the ideal person to lead the project.

Secondly, realism is required. You have to ask yourself self-critically whether the project can make a sufficient contribution to scientific progress and whether you have the necessary qualifications to lead it. You also have to be realistic about the feasibility of the project. You have to find a balance between innovation and feasibility.

Thirdly, you should try and not give up. All too often, many good project ideas fail because they are not submitted at all. This happens when you fall prey to perfectionism or underestimate yourself and your idea. Only when you submit an application you know how good it is. Rejections should be taken as an opportunity to revise or completely rethink the project idea. The evaluation system is not perfect. Luck often plays a role. That's why you shouldn't fall into too much self-doubt if your application is rejected and simply try again.

Further details

contact: Prof. Dr. Michael Gebel

Chair of Sociology, especially Methods of Empirical Social Research

Link to the project website:

More details in the research results database of the European Commission: