School of Economics

2009 Discussion Papers

School of Economics Discussion Paper 09/18
October 2009

Job Insecurity, Employability, Unemployment and Well-Being

Francis Green

School of Economics
University of Kent

Abstract:

This paper shows that employability strongly moderates the effects of unemployment and of job insecurity on well-being. I develop a simple framework for employment insecurity and employability with two key features. First, it allows for the risks surrounding unemployment and employment transitions to affect well-being both directly and indirectly through their impact on expected income. Second, the framework allows for the interaction between unemployment and employability, and between job insecurity and employability. Using panel data from Australia, I provide new random effects and fixed effects estimates of the impact of unemployment and of job insecurity on life satisfaction and on mental health, in the context of a model that takes account of the interacting risks. As predicted, unemployed people with little hope of finding a job enjoy the least well-being by a considerable margin, while employed people who are both highly employable and in a secure job enjoy the most. In between there is substantial differentiation according to employability, job insecurity and their interaction. Compared to a secure job the deleterious effects of high job insecurity on well-being are comparable to the effects of unemployment. Both are substantial. The findings are used to compute estimates of the well-being trade-off between increases in job insecurity and increases in employability, relevant to the support of “flexicurity” and similar employment policies.

JEL Classification: J28, J6, I12

Keywords: Life satisfaction, mental health, unemployment, employment, job insecurity, employability, flexicurity, employment insecurity, flexibility

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