Turbulent Times in Europe due to Insecure Labor Markets?

April 15 – 17, 2019

Sonja Scheuring tried to give first answers to the question on the 4th International European Social Survey (ESS) Conference – Turbulent Times in Europe: Instability, Insecurity and Inequality on April 15 – 17, 2019 at the University of Mannheim. The conference comprised 29 different sessions including about 120 distinct presentations. She presented on “The Effect of Fixed-Term Employment on Well-Being: Disentangling Micro-Mechanisms and the Moderating Role of Social Cohesion”.

First results imply that fixed-term employees have a lower well-being compared to permanent employees and a

greater well-being than permanent employees do. The effects are very similar for all 23 European countries and seem to be explainable by the Latent Deprivation Model, as some of the functions mediate the effect. Moreover, the paper gives first hints for social cohesion to moderate the effects, such that the greater the social cohesion, the less bad are fixed-term jobs compared to permanent ones for the well-being (also visible in the photograph). This shifts the focus from economic moderators like employment protection legislation (EPL) to also societal ones.

Short abstract

The incidence of temporary employment seems to be on a rise, although there are large differences across European countries. Against this background, researchers have examined several socio-economic consequences of temporary employment in various countries, of which one important outcome well-being is. Only a few cross-country comparative studies have addressed the effects of temporary employment on well-being and highlighted the moderating role of country-specific characteristics. We complement this literature by testing to which extent the mechanisms of Jahoda’s Latent Deprivation Model (social contacts, activity, status and income) can explain the effect of temporary employment on well-being in different European countries. The effects will be evaluated in both upwards (permanent employment) and downwards (unemployment) perspective. The ESS 2012 module on personal and social well-being provides a unique comparative dataset for 29 countries for testing the mechanisms. Furthermore, we incorporate the country-specific perspective by examining how social cohesion (measured via Social Cohesion Radar of Bertelsmann Foundation) moderates the impact of fixed-term employment on well-being. A high degree of social cohesion in societies should substitute the function of social contacts in the work environment of individuals: if there is a strong feeling of affiliation within a society, the individuals do not need a strong social function of paid employment. Instead, even in unemployed phases, they rely on this shared identity. Thus, the greater the social cohesion in a country is pronounced, the less negative (positive) should the impact on well-being be in an upwards (downwards) comparison. We test this using a two-step estimation procedure for the linear multilevel regression, which allows a flexible model specification for the main independent variable of interest and the micro-level control variables. Taking the previous comparative literature into account we control for confounding macro-variables like labor market policies or GDP, which are shown to act as important cross-level moderators.


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