Insecurity drains the life out of employees
Not long ago a majority of workers worked for the same company for 20, 30 or more years. It was a normal occurrence. At the time many of my friends were asking me how can I shift so much and so easily from one employer to another? That was easy enough, since nothing was “pushing me” out of a company except my curiosity and new, different challenges. Same as today? No, not the same here. Those were different times and different society back then.
In 2014 Hewlett-Packard only eliminated 34,000 jobs, while JP Morgan Chase has cut 20,000 from its workforce and JC Penney and Sprint announced cuts … In '70s and '80s, not so long ago, a modification of labor market began and we were able to observe anti-worker policies forming up. Nowadays a new business model (not so new any more) is disentangling the ties between employers and employees, fueling the perception that it is good to have employment flexibility.
In today’s business spheres where results of globalization, outsourcing, contracting, downsizing, recession and even natural disasters are all together killing ‘a job security’, how does one deal with such uncertainties?
It is well known that people can deal with short bursts of pressure pretty good, but that chronic uncertainty throws them in a vicious cycle of stress and fear. According to the research done by Stuart Whitaker at the University of Cumbria, having an insecure job has a more damaging impact on people's health than actually losing a job.
When we do not know whether we’ll have a job next year or, even worse, next week, how do we plan the life? Could we consider a loan to buy a house, start family or save for college or save for retirement? In the face of job insecurity, thoughts like these bring only panic and more pressure. Can we still spend with easiness if we are so insecure for the jobs we have?
When people fear that the world around them will fall apart, when our future becomes foggy, when feelings of powerlessness paralyze us, we tend to start to flip out. We pile on more work than we can handle, we are afraid to take sick leaves. Some people start to function on drugs, coffee, cigarettes, alcohol and other substances. We drop everything that is good for us – we stop to care for our physical well-being, we stop practicing, we do not have fun with friends or have and enjoy vacations and so on.
Our body responds to chronic stress and the immune system starts to collapse from ‘over responsiveness’. We have a constant sense of failure, become passive and/or even aggressive. We feel like we do not make a normal part of the society but remain rather on the outside of it. And all this is very stressful. Suicide rates are known to increase during economic downturns and/or layoffs.
At times of high unemployment and union disintegration, employers have less incentive to any kind of social welfare. But at the same time the employers are under the pressure of so-called vulture capitalism of profiteering firms that make a quick buck by bankrupting companies and firing employees. When an economy is sky-high by youth joblessness, employers grasp the young, inexperienced people, which in turn could be exploited extremely and paid inappropriately little. Permanent jobs are forgotten, the engine for inequality becomes job precariousness. Why? The statistics proved that one-third of those that get laid off get new job at a comparable wage, one-third don't get work and last third earn less.
The American Psychological Association paints a picture of workers on the verge of a nervous breakdown due to job insecurity. Their research demonstrates that 62% say work has a significant impact on their stress levels; almost 50% indicate their stress levels have increased in last years.
But we are still listening to capitalism apologists telling us that employers need maximum flexibility to hire and fire so that wealth can be created for all! That people work better under stress situation. That, in the face of ever-increasing income inequality, there is a room for gain if you work harder. But the public health cost of this new insecurity approach is high! It falls on all of us …
And there are also people that advocate work ethic where the route to health and happiness lies with the perpetuation of work, not with its reduction. They preach that only work makes us healthier and happier. But ‘unfortunately’ unheard, there’s a growing number of studies showing the human cost of longer working hours as lower physical and mental health; the risk of a stroke, coronary heart disease and developing diabetes type 2.
It is well known that job insecurity leads to family and society disruption while the opposite – stability - lends much more security and prosperity.
Should we stop this vicious capitalism cycle or …?