What Is Job Insecurity?

Job insecurity is a state of uncertainty about one’s employment status. This can be experienced in a short term, acute form – such as the fear of being laid off or fired – or in a long term, chronic form – where an individual has a generalized fear about their ability to hold onto their job. Many workers may experience job insecurity at some point in their careers, especially those who have spent a significant amount of time in less stable employment situations. It’s important to understand the impacts of job insecurity on both an individual and the workforce as a whole.

Definition and Examples of Job Insecurity

Job insecurity occurs when an individual’s employment is unstable, or when they feel that it is. This is the opposite of job security, where an individual feels confident that their employment will continue. The negative effects of job insecurity – including stress, anxiety, and negative impacts on mental and physical health – are real, regardless of whether job loss is imminent.

One example of job insecurity is working in a industry that hires seasonal workers. For example, an individual may have a job as a fulfillment center associate before the winter holidays, but lose their contract after the busy season ends. Similarly, a swim instructor at a resort may have steady work during the summer months, but not have employment during the off season.

Types of Job Insecurity

There are two main types of job insecurity: acute and chronic. Acute job insecurity occurs in the short term, such as when an individual suspects they will be laid off in the coming weeks. Chronic job insecurity occurs over a longer period of time, and can be experienced when an individual’s company is doing well, but there are no guarantees about the future, and their industry is prone to layoffs. In the United States, most private-sector workers are considered to be employed at will, meaning they can be terminated from their job at any time for almost any reason, without notice or explanation.

How Job Insecurity Impacts Workers

Job insecurity can have severe negative effects on an individual’s physical and mental health. Studies have shown a connection between job insecurity and a range of health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, ulcers, headaches, back pain, and insomnia. Job-insecure workers may also engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking. In addition to physical impacts, job insecurity can also negatively affect an individual’s mental health, leading to depression and anxiety.

Impacts on the Workforce

Job insecurity can also have negative effects on the workforce as a whole. When workers experience job insecurity, it can lead to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and higher turnover rates. This can have a negative impact on a company’s bottom line, and can also lead to a decrease in morale and an increase in conflict among employees.

Managing Job Insecurity

There are steps individuals can take to manage job insecurity and reduce its negative impacts. These include:

  • Staying informed about your company’s financial health and industry trends
  • Building a strong network of professional contacts
  • Keeping your skills and knowledge up-to-date
  • Seeking out job security by negotiating an employment contract or seeking out job opportunities in stable industries
  • Seeking support from friends, family, or a mental health professional to manage stress and anxiety.

Job insecurity can have negative impacts on both an individual and the workforce as a whole. It’s important to understand the different types of job insecurity and the ways in which it can affect an individual’s physical and mental health. By staying informed, building a strong network, and taking steps to manage job insecurity, individuals can reduce its negative impacts and take control of their career.