Impact of Length of Unemployment and Age on Jobless Men and Women: A Comparative Analysis

By Kulik, Liat | Journal of Employment Counseling, March 2001 | Go to article overview

Impact of Length of Unemployment and Age on Jobless Men and Women: A Comparative Analysis


Kulik, Liat, Journal of Employment Counseling


The study examined differences in job search intensity, as well as attitudes toward unemployment and related responses among a sample of 559 jobless Israelis. Groups of participants were distinguished according to sex, age, and length of unemployment. The findings revealed that job search intensity, psychological stress, and work centrality were highest among participants who had been unemployed for 2 to 3 months, and gradually declined for longer periods of unemployment. Moreover, middle-aged participants spent more hours per week searching for jobs and mentioned fewer advantages of unemployment than did the younger groups. Furthermore, women reported a sharper decline in health as a result of unemployment, as well as lower levels of work centrality.

In recent decades, there has been increasing interest in investigating various manifestations of stress and coping among different groups (Coyne & Downey, 1991). Specifically, current research findings indicate that stress responses may be explained by a broad range of variables. In the same vein, it has been argued that these responses are affected not only by the major stressor (e.g., negative, uncontrolled, or unpredictable events), but also by the interaction of stressors with individual background variables (Broman, Hamilton, Hoffman, & Mavaddat, 1995). This article focuses on unemployment, which is widely acknowledged as a stressful situation (Goldsmith, Veum, & Darity, 1997; Harris, Heller, & Braddock, 1998; Leana & Feldman, 1991; Malen & Stroh, 1998).

Joblessness has become a major social, economic, social, and political issue worldwide, as well as a fact of life for a growing number of involuntarily unemployed men, women, and their families. Because the stressful implications of unemployment may vary substantially between individuals, this study investigated the impact of several relevant factors (sex, age, and length of unemployment) on attitudes and responses to unemployment among a sample of jobless Israelis. These factors were assessed in relation to four sets of variables: (a) job search intensity (frequency of different job-seeking strategies and time spent looking for a job), (b) work centrality during unemployment (perceived importance of work and nonfinancial commitment to work), (c) responses to unemployment (psychological, health, and financial), and (d) perceived advantages of unemployment (spending more time with the family and personal advantages).

Regarding gender differences in coping strategies and other responses to unemployment, this issue has hardly been examined, because existing studies have largely been concerned with men. To the extent that women have been represented in studies of joblessness, they usually appear in the role of wives to unemployed husbands (Dew, Bromet, & Schulberg, 1987; Liem & Liem, 1988). Several reasons combine to explain the shortage of research on women's unemployment. One is the late entry of women into the labor force as a significant qualitative and quantitative factor. Moreover, the lack of attention to unemployed women may derive from the common assumption that they attribute less centrality to work than men (D. Kaufman & Fetters, 1980) and are less traumatized by joblessness than men due their marginal status in the labor force (Kasl & Cobb, 1979; Tary, 1983).

In recent decades, however, there have been far-reaching changes in representation of women in the workplace in Israel as in other Western countries. For example, research on employed women's attitudes toward work has revealed similarities with men, indicating that the stereotypical view of women as marginal worker may be inaccurate (Dex, 1988). This view has been supported in current international studies, which indicate that women are changing their orientation toward work (Sverko & Super, 1995). In Israel, this trend is evidenced in the growing number of women with higher education who have entered new fields, including masculine-typed professions and management positions (Izraeli, 1992, 1994).

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