This study attempts to uncover the ‘real’ impact of temporary contracts on workers’ perceived job quality, prior to the psychological phenomena of adaptation, coping and cognitive dissonance coming into play. This is done by using a novel conjoint analysis approach that examines the ex ante preferences over different contract statuses of a newly generated sample of low-skilled employees from seven European countries. Other things equal, it is shown that the anticipated psychological ‘costs’ of moving from a riskless permanent contract to the insecurity of a temporary job or no work at all appear to be quite significant. In contrast, temporary employees, who have presumably already adapted to the circumstances surrounding a non-permanent contract, are found to be statistically indifferent between permanent and temporary employment, and request much smaller wage premiums in order to switch from one status to the other. The well-documented distress associated with joblessness is also confirmed in our data. The methodology developed here can provide policymakers with an alternative and relatively inexpensive method of quantifying the immediate impact of any shift in their employment policies.European Commissio
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