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Micro- and Macro-Level Determinants of Job Insecurity Perceptions: Individual, Organizational and Social Consequences. Multilevel Analysis and Comparisons among Countries

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Multi-JOBINSEC (Micro- and Macro-Level Determinants of Job Insecurity Perceptions: Individual, Organizational and Social Consequences. Multilevel Analysis and Comparisons among Countries)

Reporting period: 2015-09-01 to 2017-08-31

In the current economic climate characterized by a lack of stability in employment conditions, the risk of exposure to job uncertainty has increased. As a result, job insecurity is a globally relevant phenomenon and is considered to be a prominent and common work stressor. It has probably become a structural feature of the labour market.
The individual perception and concern about the future permanence of the job is a challenge for today’s organizations not only because it is a widespread social phenomenon. Job insecurity leads to impaired health and well-being, as well as negative attitudes towards the organization and decreased performance.
In line with the topicality of the subject, the present project aimed to increase the understanding of the nature of job insecurity by examining its causes and consequences through a multilevel perspective, taking into account the view of the employee, the organization and characteristics of the country.
The European Union has already proposed an integrated strategy to enhance at the same time flexibility and security in the labour market, in order to adapt to the ever-changing economic environment. The aim is flexicurity, which means reconciling sustainable economic growth with more jobs and greater social inclusion (Horizon 2020). The emphasis is on the flexibility of labour markets and labour relations in order to support productivity and growth, as well as on employment and income security, which are necessary to ensure cohesion within society.
In order to monitor progress towards flexibility and job security, the European Commission has stimulated the development of statistical instruments to measure the achievements of Member States. Some of them give a comparative picture of a country’s policies and spending towards flexicurity, but they do not examine whether and to what degree they produce job security as an outcome experienced by individual workers.
Our proposal has just addressed these issues. By assuming a holistic approach, we have investigated job insecurity according to three levels of analyses: (a) as subjective perception at the individual level, (b) as shared perceptions at the organizational level, (c) as perceptions related to country characteristics (cross-country comparison).
In so doing, we also adopted a multidisciplinary perspective taking into account factors related to the economic conditions, social policies and labour market features, in addition to aspects concerning work psychology.
The goal was to achieve a comprehensive picture of the job insecurity phenomenon in order to better understand how to cope with it. In particular, a cross-country approach allowed us to shift the view from an exclusively individual-level investigation of job insecurity to an examination of interactions between individuals and contextual characteristics.
We achieved our aims using European and international data sources, such as the European Social Survey (ESS), Eurostat, and OECD. By combining individual-level survey data from employees nested in European countries with country-level indices related to institutional conditions and macro-economic factors, we compiled a unique multilevel dataset. This dataset allowed us to empirically examine whether and how individuals in countries with different conditions react differently to the perception that their job may be at risk.
The assumption that individual perceptions are explained by individual and macro-level factors required the use of hierarchical linear modeling. This technique accounts for the clustered nature of the ESS data source (employees within countries) and enables estimating country-level effects on individual outcomes.
We found that perceived job insecurity is related to different consequences, such as psychological well-being, job and life satisfaction, and household consumption. These relationships vary across countries and in particular some institutional and economic contexts explain this variation. Specifically, active and passive labour market policies, employment protection legislation, employment rate and GDP can reduce the negative reactions to job insecurity among employees. Moreover, we found that when labour market and economic conditions are taken into account together with institutional factors, the latter better explain the adverse impact of employee job insecurity. This was tested by explaining the cross-national variance in the relationship between job insecurity and outcomes, and examining the relative impact of institutions and market forces on this variance.
In general, the results of the project highlight the importance of studying stress processes from a multilevel perspective by considering all factors involved, because macroeconomic variables can also shape individual responses to workplace stressors.
Job insecurity is the result of an subjective appraisal by an individual embedded in a number of different environments (social, organizational and cultural context). Therefore, perceived job insecurity and its consequences come from an evaluation process in which both higher contextual factors at the macro level and the individual resource at the micro level have to be taken into account.
The cross-national approach allowed us to evaluate the generalizability of job insecurity with the aim to identify more resourceful contexts and common strategies at the country level to deal with it. In particular, results supported the idea that higher resources at the country level are a buffer against the negative effects of perceived job insecurity.
The strengths of these findings are related to the assumption that employee’s security perceptions are crucial for the successful implementation of policies related to flexicurity. Employees who not feel secure may be less inclined to accept increased flexibility in the labour market or changes made in the social security systems. Therefore, it was important to understand which individuals under which institutional contexts and market conditions are more vulnerable to job insecurity and how institutions can counter this impact.
According to the insights of the present project, institutions (e.g. labour market polices, employment protection legislation) can overcome the negative effects of perceived job insecurity. These results provide suggestions for the evaluation of national policies that may be taken into account by policy makers. It is especially interesting in relation to the European Commission's strategy to enhance the competitiveness of markets while maintaining the European Social Model. The balance between flexibility and security is key for a successful future for the European model. Consequently, the institutional arrangements that include investments in labour market policies are deemed necessary to create or strengthen this balance.
Marie-Curie Research Project