Current labor relations and their relationship with health must be analyzed in terms of job insecurity. The fruit of globalization with respect to employment has had instability as its main conclusion. In most countries, an increasing variety of contractual, more complex and uncertain modalities give rise to work trajectories that we must call erratic , and that end in erratic life trajectories as well. That is, without a fixed course. In this way, if the psychology of work focused its study on the phenomenon of unemployment and its effects during a good part of the 20th century, today the range of interests is much greater, and revolves, in general terms, on job insecurity and its corresponding effects .
With the aim of establishing a basis for analysis, we would have to assume that the difference between the type of work typical of the welfare state and the type of work that has been developed in the last decade lies in stability. Unemployment, in the 1980s, was assumed to be a terribly disruptive situation with the fact of being employed, precisely because employment tended to be very stable. It tended to offer good conditions, and enable vital plans as a result of an income that, despite being low in many cases, offered security. In a context of precarious work, stability gives way to volatility, and the line between employment and unemployment is blurred for two reasons: first, because employment no longer has the very beneficial security conditions that it previously offered.; secondly, because the type of temporary and unstable work implies that people’s working lives are forged in a constant zigzag between unemployment and precarious employment. Especially accused in young people.
The effects of work on well-being
All this context, which we have explained in a very thick way, knowing that readers are fully aware, what generates is a clearly different psychological relationship with the world of paid work. For this reason, from the psychological study of the effects of work, it is necessary to resort to new terminology, which allows us to approach the analysis of work from different perspectives. As a result of this effort, the study of job uncertainty began in the mid-eighties . A phenomenon focused on analyzing the fear that the person feels of losing their job. An insecurity experienced regarding the future of employment, which we know poses very deep problems for the people who suffer from it.
At least an employee dedicates a third of his day to day to his job . On many more occasions. To this should be added the time he spends traveling to his paid job, and also the training processes that often leave his day. His income comes from his paid job as well. Thus, employment is not only one of the most important parts of people’s lives, but also the most conditioning of all of them. The relationship, therefore, between employment and well-being is direct and indissoluble. It is not possible to establish a barrier between the conditions of paid work and other aspects of life, because they are closely related elements.
What does the analysis of job uncertainty tell us?
First, the latest global analysis that has been attempted in Europe dictates that up to 25% of European employees fear losing their current job. These data are about four or five years old. Possibly, if the analysis were repeated today, and carried out with more refined methodologies, the perception of instability among employees would be even greater.
However, the bulk of the research on this perception of precariousness has revolved around its effects. Job instability is fundamentally harmful to the well-being of workers. It has been found that it is related to a deterioration, not only in mental health, but also in physical health.
Thus, job instability has been linked to the appearance of depression among salaried workers. Also, that those people who experience depression, through adverse work situations, see that their depressive process tends to lengthen even more. Similarly, the fear of losing a job has been linked to anxiety- related problems . In general, we go to a general deterioration in life satisfaction , which necessarily impacts on a deterioration of our social and family relationships outside of work. This takes up the idea that work is closely related to the rest of the facets of people’s lives, so continuity is necessary. In fact, we also know thatHaving a rich social network, both inside and outside work , is a brake on the effects derived from employment problems. In this way, participating in social, neighborhood, sports initiatives … are safety tools for well-being that are not valued enough. Regarding physical health, the fear of job loss has effects similar to those of stress, closely related to coronary problems.
The individual and the collective
However, the conclusion of this article needs to be discouraging, as there is no one recipe for individual guidelines to avoid instability. The solution to job uncertainty involves political and institutional reforms that favor quality jobs and more stable work environments. In this way, it must be concluded that it is not an individual problem, but rather a matter that needs collective intervention in political terms . Psychology, what it can do and is doing is to establish a diagnosis, which, as observed, yields devastating conclusions.