Precarious conditions

How might we as architects participate in creating better future, if we work in precarious conditions?


Precarious work can be understood as working in conditions that do not allow one to achieve the standard level of social and political participation in society. This might include low wages, irregular employment, unpredictable working hours, the absence of collective representation and also particularly exhausting working conditions. Precarious working conditions are connected to employment relationships widespread in architecture, where one party has the duties of an employee without the benefits, but also affect self-employers who set impossible working conditions for themselves in order to succeed in the competitive market.

Czech context

The architecture labour market in the Czech Republic forces young architects – graduates (yet) without a licence – to work as falsely self-employed. According to a Czech survey of young architects’ working conditions (WCYA) in 2020, nearly half of the young Czech architects work in one place, receive a fixed salary and have tasks assigned to them by one person, but they lack employment benefits, e.g. maximum working hours, paid and sick leave and other social security benefits. Such an approach circumvents the Labour Code and enables employers to save on social security deductions. The detection and penalisation of such practices are complicated and therefore rare. Hence it is common not only in the creative industries but also in services, science and even in the state sector.


  1. “I worked in several design firms and I never had any employee benefits. On the contrary, my employer always tried to keep the cost of my position as low as possible. When I wanted a raise, he only offered to cut my official salary and to give me what he saves in taxes on the side through travel expenses.”
  2. “I am self-employed. Working under someone seems like slavery to me – inadequate money for the work done. That’s why I became independent.”

Terms and taxononies

Employment relationship

Is typically a contractual relationship between the employer and the employee. Other workers who do not have a contract of employment are nonetheless in an employment relationship if their work bears the signs of dependent work.


Is a person for whom another person has undertaken to perform dependent work in a basic employment relationship.


Is a person who has undertaken to perform dependent work in a basic employment relationship based on an employment contract.

Self-employed person

Is someone who works in their own professional practice for the purpose of earning a profit, and who employs no other persons. A self-employed person is an independent worker in the sense that they are not subordinate to an employer.

Economically dependent worker

The concept of “economically dependent worker” falls between the two established concepts of employment and self-employment. It refers to those workers who do not correspond to the traditional definition of employee because they do not have an employment contract as dependent employees. However, although formally “self-employed”, they are economically dependent on a single employer for their source of income.

Typical work

Is defined as a socially secure, full-time job of unlimited duration, with standard working hours, regular income, and, via social security systems geared towards wage earners, secure pension payments and protection against ill health and unemployment.

Atypical work

Includes part-time work, temporary work, fixed-term work, casual and seasonal work, self-employed people, independent workers and home workers. It usually lacks some or all of the security of typical work.

Working relationships

Healthy working environment

Labour taxation in the Czech Republic using the example of estimated gross income of young architects