Until recently I was under the impression that it is a recent term based on the works of Guy Standing. All publications (currently) cited in the Wikipedia page on the topic are from 2010 or newer. But I found a paper (from different authors) dating to 2005 using it in its title "‘Velkom tu Hell’: Precariat Moscow". So does anyone know the origin of the term? Who coined it first and with what meaning?
Since the relevance of the term to politics has been questioned, I'll point out that it has entered political science, e.g. "What happened to Europe’s left? From proletariat to precariat" and the discourse of acadmics idenftifed with the left, e.g. Chomsky's "Plutonomy and the Precariat". Guy Standing himself has an article titled "The Precariat: why it needs deliberative democracy" which just by its title implies that some political solution is needed. The more politically neutral terms roughly synonymous are "alternative work arrangements", "contingent work", "flexible work" and the like. And I'm not asking about those here. And in case it's still not obvious there's a political viewpoint involved, here's a one-paragraph summary of Standing's book:
Guy Standing’s book, The Precariat, argues that a new social class is forming in response to global capital’s call for labour market flexibility. This call for flexibility is not so much a win-win agreement with employees that would allow them to provide their labour in places, times, and ways that would fit their lifestyles. Rather, it is a move to reduce labour costs in support of global capitalism through a range of strategies and actions. It involves more temporary jobs without benefits. It involves the relocation of jobs to places with lower labour costs. It involves using migrants as cheap labour, contributing to what Standing suggests as “the greatest migration in history” (180). It involves disconnecting benefits from particular jobs. All of these efforts to create a more flexible labor market involve the pursuit to lower labour costs for global capitalism and in the process “making employees more insecure” (10). The precariat are the increasing number of the world’s workers who are most susceptible to labour market flexibility. They are the ones who lives are becoming increasingly precarious.