Social Change and the Experience of Unemployment

By Duncan Gallie; Catherine Marsh et al. | Go to book overview

6
The Effects of Labour Market Position, Job Insecurity, and Unemployment on Psychological Health

BRENDAN BURCHELL


1. INTRODUCTION

Often, when considering the impact of unemployment on the individual, we are not so much concerned with the simple lack of a job itself, but the impact of worklessness on the quality of life. Unravelling this link is a complex task. For instance, the economic consequences of unemployment do not simply depend on the loss of the wage. They are a complex function of the unemployment insurance or benefits available, and also the duration of the spell of unemployment and the difference in pay and prospects between the jobs that precede and follow the spell of unemployment (e.g. whether the individual has experienced a loss of seniority or a downgrading because of the spell of unemployment).

In a similar vein, it may be too simplistic to consider the psychological damage caused by unemployment in a way that would suggest that all of the unemployed suffer from psychological ill health and none of the employed do. While there is indeed good, well-documented evidence that, on aggregate, the unemployed suffer worse psychological health than the employed, this view hides the damage done to many employees by their labour market position. It also overestimates the importance of work per se for psychological health.

To prove that the effect of unemployment on psychological

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*In addition to the valuable contributions from the three editors of this book, I would also like to thank Lynda Burchell, John Devereux, Colin Fraser, Jill Rubery, and Frank Wilkinson for their help in preparing this chapter.

-188-

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