President Michael D Higgins has criticised the rise of a new class of people trapped in job insecurity following the recent financial crisis. 

He described this new group as the "precariat" - due to their precarious employment and the rise of unpaid internships which are often required as a prelude to access to paid work. 

The President described the challenge of responding to this change as a defining challenge for our times, which lay at the heart of the crisis confronting European democracy.

He warned that if no genuine alternative is translated into more policy options, populist politicians and "heinous" religious preachers would find it easy to exploit the fears and insecurities of precarious workers. 

He noted that the shift towards precarious work affected not just lower-skilled workers, but had also spread to the education sector - where teaching and research is often carried out by temporary lecturers, adjunct professors and "teaching assistants" with short term contracts and no job security. 

President Higgins said no single economic paradigm could ever be adequate to address the complexity of the world's varying contexts and contingencies. 

However, he warned that decisions in the economic and financial fields should never be abandoned to the automatic assumption of rigid fiscal rules - particularly when economists disagreed about the theoretical soundness of such rules. 

President Higgins called for a re-evaluation of the assumptions associated with a brand of economics that treated labour, land and money as if they were pure commodities. 

He said the recent crisis had shown that markets needed an institutional framework to guarantee fairness over the long term of human existence.