New flexible type of employment and organizational changes that have been introduced during mainly the last decade have brought the term of job insecurity to light and led researchers from various field to examine the work related phenomenon (Budworth, 2009). Businesses have become “leaner and meaner” (Burke & Cooper, 2000, p. 6) by focusing on core competencies and outsourcing more peripheral functions (Burke& Cooper, 2000). Moreover, many organizations downsized (Martin & Freeman, 1998) and non-standard types of employment are used more often to ensure organizational flexibility and short reaction times to external changes (Allvin, Aronsson, Hagstrom, Johansson, & Lundberg, 2011).
Initially, in the first literature references, job insecurity was approached in amore indirect way as Herzberg (1959) and Maslow (1954) have stressed that having a secure work environment has a positive effect not only on the work effectiveness of the employees but also on their general well-being and self-rated health. However, the term of job insecurity as an individual stressor has been constructed on the basis of a 30 year old researches and literature reviews. As job insecurity is defined the expectations that one has for the continuation of his occupational status (Davy, Kinicki & Scheck, 1997). According to Budworth (2009), job insecurity is a general anxiety relatively to the future occupation availability. Also another definition of Job insecurity according to Greenhalgh & Rosenblatt (1984), has been defined as the employee’s “perceived powerlessness to maintain desired continuity in a threatened job situation”. In terms of the notion of job insecurity, there has been stressed to core factors and terms involved, one is the feature of powerlessness that is connected with the feeling of not being able to change the situation and secondly the perceived threat of losing one’s job (Greenhalgh & Rosenblatt, 1984).
The level of job insecurity is dependent on the combination of the intensity of the sense of powerlessness felt and the severity of the hazard for someone to lose his/her job (Greenhalgh & Rosenblatt, 1984) without cancelling the way that the individual interprets this experience of job insecurity. More recent definitions characterize job insecurity as “a discrepancy between the level of security a person experiences and the level she or he might prefer” (Hartley et al., 1991, p. 7), the “expectations about continuity in a job situation” (Davy, Kinicki, & Scheck, 1997, p.133), as well as the “concern about the future permanence of the job” (van Vuuren & Klandermans, 1990, p.133).
The sense of job insecurity is affected not only by objective variables such as changes in the work environment, downsizing procedures, as well as conditions that evoke suspicions of possible loss of job (Hartley, Jacobson, Klandermans, & van Vuuren, 1991) but also by subjective factors because the levels of job insecurity among employees within the same organizations are very different (De Witte & Naswall, 2003; Sverke et al., 2002), which can be attributed to inter-individual differences that may have effects on the perception of the common work situation (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).
The variability of job insecurity within a group of employees may depend on aspects such as the availability of resources, type of work performed, or personal characteristics, such as age or educational level (Naswall & De Witte, 2003). In terms of age, employees under the age of 35 typically report less job insecurity feelings even though they tend to be employed in less stable jobs (De Witte, 1999) while at the same time specific fields of employment are related with higher levels of job insecurity, mainly manufacturing, agriculture, and construction jobs (Galliem, White, Cheng, & Tomlinson, 1998; Naswall & De Witte, 2003; Kinnunen, Mauno, Natti, & Happonen, 2010).
Last but not least, the consequences of job insecurity is another field that has attracted the scientific attention and interest as it seems that this experience affect not only the organization and its function and performance, but also the individual in terms of his/her health condition and other personal domains that are not related with work, for example social or family relationships (Sverke et al., 2002).
In conclusion, it seems that job insecurity is a contemporary burning issue that has great effects on the market environment as we know it and on the employees’ effectiveness, physical and mental health yet is a complex experience that needs further examination and research in order to define its antecedent factors, its specific features and its consequences in a personal level, microeconomic and macroeconomic level.
Individual health is known to be affected by stressors in the long run according to this framework. In addition to the findings of the meta-analyses on the negative association of job insecurity and mental health (Sverke et al., 2002), job insecurity has been associated with anxiety, psychosomatic complaints, emotional and physical exhaustion, hostility, burnout, and depression (De Witte, 1999; van Vuuren, Klandermans, Jacobson, & Hartley, 1991).
More specifically, Sarah A. Burgard, PhD, and colleagues of University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, analyzed data on about 440 working-aged adults living in southeast Michigan in 2009-10. The results showed that 18% of the participants of the study perceive their job as insecure as it was at least ”fairly likely” that they would lose their job or be laid off within the next year. At the same research, these participants would also rate their health as poorer than those that do not have high levels of job insecurity, nearly three times more possible to do so. Also, employees with low job security are even four times more possible to report anxiety attacks and are seven times closer to claim symptoms that are related with minor or major depression (Burgard, Kalousova & Seefeldt, 2012).
Similarly, job insecurity is concerned to be the basic antecedent factor for occupational stress (Sverke et al., 2002). The lack of ability to predict one’s future and to have the sense of control over the way that things are going to come in the working environment increase the levels of stress by reducing at the same time the individual’s ability to cope with the stressful situations and opt for unhealthy and ineffective solutions (Lazarus & Folkman,1984). According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS), experiencing stress for long periods of time (such as lower level but constant stressors at work) will activate an automatic response system which does not get the chance to turn off. When this happens, the ability to cope with stress becomes compromised. Signs and symptoms include physical: headaches, grinding teeth, chest pain, shortness of breath, pounding heart, high blood pressure, muscle aches, fatigue, insomnia, frequent illness, psychosocial: anxiety, irritability, sadness, defensiveness, anger, mood swings, hypersensitivity, apathy, depression, slowed thinking or racing thoughts, feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or of being trapped and behavioral: overeating or loss of appetite, impatience, procrastination, increased use of alcohol or drugs, withdrawal or isolation from others, neglect of responsibility, poor job performance, change in religious practices.
On the other hand, somatic complaints have also been found to be related with job insecurity (ChSverke et al., 2002). For instance, the increased occurrence of ischemic heart disease (Siegriest, Peter, Junge, Cremer, &Siegel, 1990), high levels of blood pressure James (LaCroix, Kleinbaum & Stroganz, 1989), as well as increased neck and shoulder pain (Burgard, Brand, & House, 2009) have been related to job insecurity. Others have found job insecurity to be associated with increased medical consultation, which can be seen as an indicator of impaired well-being.
A study over 14 months among car workers, found that job insecurity at baseline and follow up increased physical symptoms above the effects of job insecurity at any one point in time. Physical symptomatology was assessed using an index of 17 somatic symptoms such as persistent cough and frequent headaches (Heaney, Israel & House, 1994).
In addition, the aim of an analysis that was conducted by Ferrie, Shipley, Stansfeld and Marmot, (1998) was to compare self-reported health, minor psychiatric morbidity, physiological measures, and health related behaviors at Phase 5 for participants whose job had remained secure (control group) with those for three exposure groups; participants who had lost or gained job security between Phases 4 and 5, and participants whose jobs were insecure at both time points (chronic insecurity). Similarly with most work on perceived job insecurity, the findings of greatest note were in the psychological sphere as GHQ score and depression were higher in all three exposure groups in comparison with participants who remained in secure employment. The smallest difference was observed among participants who accomplished security, the greatest among those insecure at both Phases, while those who lost security fell between. Poor self rated health, which has a large subjective appraisal element, was also higher in women and men who either lost security or remained insecure, and the prevalence of longstanding illness was raised among women who lost job security. Differences in the physiological measures were few. As greater increases in blood pressure were seen in women who lost job security, and there was a lower BMI among women reporting chronic job insecurity.
Moreover, relevant data reported data on blood pressure as blood pressure was found to be higher before redundancy in blue collar men and in white-collar workers (Kasl, 1970; 1979) while at the same time men who reported high levels of anxiety about losing their jobs had systolic pressures on average 8mmHg higher than those workers who felt secure in terms of maintaining their job (James, LaCroix, Kleinbaum & Stroganz, 1989).
At this point, it should be stressed that the negative health-related effects of prolonged job insecurity have been found to be comparable to the health effects deriving from serious illness (Burgard, Brand, & House, 2009). Even factors that are crucial for the recovery process – such as psychological detachment, experiencing mastery, being able to relax, and feeling in control – have been found to be negatively associated with job insecurity (Kinnunen et al., 2010). In addition, employees experiencing job insecurity have expressed an increased need for recovery, and experienced greater exhaustion as well as lower vigor at work (Kinnunen et al., 2010).
Considering all the above it is more than clear that the new market conditions and the lower sense of security that an employee nowadays has in his/her working environment it is evident that his/her health is more than affected by these new rules not only in terms of their physical but also in terms of their mental health.
These findings should be considered not only by the relevant services and health systems but also by the organizations so that they take the legal actions in order to protect their employees, their employees’ health in the long run their employees job satisfaction and the organizations’ effectiveness and function.
Of course, this is a new field to be discovered and further research will help to spread some light on all of the relevant factors that are included, the skills that need to be developed and the interventions that is necessary to be introduced.