© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd Institutional reconfigurations of Irish welfare architecture and specific policy regimes including social security, labour activation and employment regulation have reshaped the contemporary low-paid labour market with more focus on flexibility than security. Irish workers, particularly women, young people and vulnerable migrant workers are more likely to experience a form of labour market precarity we term ‘flex-insecurity’. This Irish form of flex-insecurity occurs in a highly globalized, segmented and gendered production regime. A particular model of competitiveness supports light touch regulation, while government procurement policy and tendering practices promote a flexible and low-paid labour force. Case studies demonstrate how the institutional reconfiguration of income support, labour law and work-first activation policy impact on mothers, vulnerable migrants and young people, disempowering these workers. The social politics of change is difficult, despite growing awareness of the extent and impact of these forms of work and some solidarity for and with these vulnerable workers, there remains considerable resistance to implementing policies to address the growing problem of precarious work.