Precarious work is causing hardship to workers and their families, and reinforcing inequality, insecurity and deprivation in the workforce, according to the latest research from the Think tank for Action on Social Change.

The report, entitled "Precarious Work, Precarious Lives", notes that precarious work forces many to rely on social protection from the taxpayer to compensate for their irregular hours and income.

It found 44% of Irish workers do not have standard or permanent employment contracts.

According to the TASC report, prepared with the Foundation for European Progressive Studies, those in part-time, zero-hour, "if-and-when", or temporary employment bear the highest risk of falling into precarious work.

Insecurity of hours and incomes leads to "in-work" poverty, dependence on welfare subsidies and difficulties accessing credit, housing, childcare and healthcare.

The phenomenon has spread to education, healthcare, hospitality, retail, construction and even the State sector.

Many end up in bogus self-employment, losing out on social welfare and legislative rights.

The report describes Ireland as an "outlier" for its low investment in childcare, primary healthcare and housing.

It demands urgent measures, including legislation to ban "if and when" contracts, a living wage, social welfare reform, investment in childcare and health provision, and enhanced union recognition rights.

It also recommends that Government labour strategies should focus on the quality of jobs.