What Is Job Insecurity?

Many American workers forfeit vacation time due to fear of losing their jobs.
Many American workers forfeit vacation time due to fear of losing their jobs. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

As of February 2011, the unemployment rate across the United States was 9.5 percent, not seasonally adjusted, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. High unemployment rates are a definite contributing factor to job insecurity. The effects of job insecurity manifest themselves in workers' physical and mental health. Productivity may also suffer in a climate of high job insecurity.


Job insecurity is a situation in which employees feel uncertain about the stability of their jobs. They may literally wonder from day to day whether they will face a pink slip. The increase of temporary and part-time positions along with contract assignments to replace full-time salaried positions can contribute to job insecurity. However, many contract workers do not feel the distress of job insecurity because they enter their assignments with the knowledge that their work tenure is temporary.

Health Effects

Job insecurity has negative health effects even in workers who manage to hold onto their jobs, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. About 25 percent of 1,000 respondents under age 60 reported feeling job insecurity during one or both interviews, which took place approximately three years apart. These workers were twice as likely as other respondents to rate their physical health as less than excellent or even very good, according to the study. Another study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology stated that workers who experienced even indirect exposure to layoffs reported symptoms related to depression.

Workplace Effects

Many white collar workers put in long hours even during favorable economic conditions due to fear of losing their jobs, according to The New York Times. In many 21st century American workplaces, a single worker may be expected to perform tasks previously divided between several positions because of cutbacks. Workers may continue to show up for work even when clearly exhausted or ill, due to fear of losing their jobs, according to research conducted by the University College London Medical School.

Vacation Starvation

As of 2010, Americans averaged only 13 paid days off each year, according to figures from the World Tourism Organization, reported by ABC News. By comparison, French workers averaged 37 paid days off per year, and Japan workers averaged 25 paid days off. Even with that limited number of vacation days, more than half of all American workers failed to use at least some vacation time, largely due to high unemployment and job insecurity, according to Reuters. Workers who do take time off often limit getaways to long weekends, and check in with the office regularly while they are away.

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