5th Dec 2023

Job insecurity 'undermines' voting and political participation

  • Job instability and insecurity affect workers' perceptions of fairness, well-being, trust, sense of social exclusion or political participation, the report finds
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Workers who suffer from job insecurity, have non-permanent contracts, or work informally are less satisfied with the functioning of democracy, according to a new report by the EU agency Eurofound.

"They are less likely to vote in elections and less likely to participate in demonstrations — an indicator of disengagement," says the report entitled Societal Implications of Labour Market Instability.

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Job instability and insecurity affect these workers' perceptions of fairness, well-being, trust, sense of social exclusion or political participation, the report finds.

It is not the type of contract itself that is associated with poor well-being, but the fear or perceived risk of losing one's job in the near future. The associations people have with job insecurity are similar to those they have with unemployment, notably in terms of social exclusion.

In other words, the risk of unemployment is almost as influential as the threat of unemployment itself, in terms of feeling excluded from society.

Something similar happens with trust in government: low levels of such trust are not associated with non-permanent contracts, but job insecurity led to a 1.3 percent decline, according to Eurofound's latest Living, Working and Covid-19 e-survey.

And while temporary contracts are no longer as prevalent, since their peak in 2017, as they were during the recovery years after the financial crisis recession (when short-term contracts of less than six months were most common), some EU countries still make heavy use of them.

They predominate in countries such as Spain, Italy, Portugal, Croatia, or Cyprus due to their high dependence on tourism, a highly seasonal sector that hires more during peak demand times such as summer or holiday periods.

In contrast, probationary contracts are more common in the Netherlands, and Germany has a high proportion of people in apprenticeships.

These temporary jobs tend to be filled mainly by young people and migrants. Temporary work is often involuntary, as can be part-time work.

Part-time workers in the EU tend to be women, mainly because of caring responsibilities. Although in some southern European countries the main reason for working part-time is that people cannot get a full-time job.

"Temporary workers often work long hours, feel underemployed [work fewer hours than they would like or perform work not commensurate with their skill level], and are most likely to be looking for other jobs," say the authors of the report.

In Ireland, more than a third of workers under the age of 25 were on temporary contracts, and in Greece the difference between the underemployment rate for 15-24 year olds and those aged 25-74 was 28.4 percent.

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