Job insecurity and temporary work on the increase

Feelings of job insecurity in the EU are widespread and on the increase. They are not limited to temporary workers, as one would expect, but found also amongst the mainstay of the labour force. Large numbers of employees with an open ended contract in the age groups 35-55 also fear loss of their jobs, regardless of the type of industry they work in. And once they are out, chances are that their new job will be temporary. This is the most striking result from a comparison between Germany, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain using the WageIndicator dataset. It includes answers to the  statement: I worry about my job security.

Worries about job insecurity
Workers on the whole find job security by far the most important thing, more so than wages and working hours. The comparative study reveals that on this sensitive issue a high percentage of the working population says to worry about losing their job. The percentage of employees with a fixed contract, i.e. a contract of limited duration, is considerably lower in all countries compared. Thus in Belgium 9 per cent of all employees had a fixed duration contract (2005), but 30 per cent felt insecure about their jobs, according to WageIndicator data from 2006. An earlier European study indicated that this percentage ‘insecure’ was 28 in 2001. For Denmark these figures are 10 per cent temp workers, but 28 per cent ‘insecure’ in 2006 against only 16 per cent in 2001. This pattern repeats itself in 5 out the 6 countries compared. With the exception of Spain, which is record holder anyhow, with 33 per cent temp workers, 46 per cent ‘insecure’ in 2006, was 49 in 2001. It should be noted however that in 2001 employees reacted to the positive statement: my current job is secure. Yet, the answers may be compared, researchers hold.

Impact of some variables
They also explored the impact of certain variables on feelings of job insecurity.
First of all type of contract, i.e. temporary or permanent. Not surprisingly they found that having a temporary contract always increases the probability of a worker feeling insecure.
Industry differences are significant in 3 out the 6 countries compared: in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands feelings of job insecurity differ across industries. The researchers suggest that this may be due to foreign competition. Relevant also is whether or not redundancies in the work force of the company are announced or expected. If this is the case, insecurity rises.
Furthermore age is significant: young workers do not fear job insecurity as much as those aged 35 – 55. This picture is similar in all countries. Over 55 there is more variation, due to different national retirement ages and schemes.
Level of education also has impact: the higher their education, the less insecure employees feel about their jobs.
Being a civil servant makes for less job insecurity as well.
Gender on the other hand does not seem to be decisive when it comes to feelings of job insecurity, the researchers from Salamanca found. But since women overall occupy worse positions on the labour market, it seems plausible that feelings of job insecurity are more widespread amongst women than men – and they are.
Having a working partner and/or children living at home does not lead to one picture similar for all countries. Here different cultural patterns and national family policies lead to a great deal of variety.

Consequences of insecurity
Given the fact that over the last decade in most EU-countries temporary contracts gained on permanent employment, the Spanish researchers point out some harsh consequences of this tendency for the lives of individuals. To make their point they draw on the Spanish case, as it is the country with record figures for temporary employment (one third of all contracts) and feelings of job insecurity (almost half of the working population). Spaniards more than other EU-citizens (of the former 15) find it hard to get a loan for buying a house, must live with their parents longer and postpone having children. They cannot build up as many pension rights and are – as all temporary workers – penalized by getting paid less in the long run.   
Muñoz de Bustillo, R. & Pedraza, P. de. (2007). Determinants of Subjective Job Insecurity in 5 European Countries.       
Muñoz de Bustillo, R. & Pedraza, P. de. (2007). Subjective and objective job insecurity in Europe: measurement and implications.

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