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Mitigating the Consequences of Flexible Labour

By M. van den Berg


In present-day Europe, there is an increasing trend in the percentage of employees with a flexible, limited contract. Previous research has documented the negative consequences of job insecurity and flexible work. Some authors point at the potential buffering role social support can play in reducing the risks of flexible labour. Though, the decline in civil engagement has changed the role social networks play in peoples’ lives. Moreover, trade unions can provide specific institutional forms of support. However, in the last decades there is a persistent decline in trade union membership in most western countries. The aim of this thesis is to investigate whether social support can mitigate these effects. In particular, for the purposes of this study social support was divided in strong ties and trade union membership - representing weak ties. At first, a sample was constructed in which the established negative consequences of flexible work on health were examined. Thereafter, a subsample was composed that contained only the employees with a flexible contract. Within this sample, it was investigated whether trade union membership and strong ties have a significant effect on well-being. Linear regression analyses were carried out to yield the present results. In accordance with hypotheses 1, 2 and 3 i) there is a negative relationship between flexible work and general health, ii) amongst flexible workers, being a trade union member has a positive effect on a persons’ health and iii) amongst flexible employees, there is a positive effect of being involved in a legal relationship. Hypothesis 4 is rejected, that is to say the effect of social capital is equal to the effect of trade union membership in mitigating the consequences of flexible work. This implies that flexible employees are, on average, less healthy. It also indicates that today, trade union membership is still important in risk reducing. Two limitations of this study are worth noting: i) strong ties are only measured by a single item and ii) because the ESS date were collected in 2008 during the financial crisis, it might be the respondents were, on average, less optimistic about the duration of their job. In line with these limitations, future work should employ refined measurements of social capital. Furthermore, a longitudinal design could provide insight in market-tendency effects on feelings of insecurity. Moreover, it may be relevant to put the effects of trade unions on well-being in perspective of different welfare states

Topics: Sociale Wetenschappen, Sociology, job insecurity, flexible work, social support, strong ties, weak ties, trade union membership, well-being outcomes.
Year: 2012
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