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Precarious employment and mental health across European welfare states: a gender perspective

Abstract

Objective

The aim of this article was to examine the relationship between precarious employment (PE), welfare states (WS) and mental health in Europe from a gender perspective.

Methods

Data were derived from the European Working Conditions Survey 2015. PE was measured through the Employment Precariousness Scale for Europe (EPRES-E), validated for comparative research in 22 European countries, and categorized into quartiles. Countries were classified into Continental, Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, Southern and Central-Eastern WS. Mental health was assessed through the WHO-5 Well-Being Index and dichotomized into poor and good mental health. In a sample of 22,555 formal employees, we performed gender-stratified multi-level logistic regression models.

Results

Results showed greater prevalences of PE and poor mental health among women. However, the association between them was stronger among men. Cross-country differences were observed in multi-level regressions, but the interaction effect of WS was only significant among women. More precisely, Central-Eastern WS enhanced the likelihood of poor mental health among women in high precarious employment situations (quartiles 3 and 4).

Conclusions

These findings suggest the interaction between contextual and individual factors in the production of mental health inequalities, both within and across countries. They also call for the incorporation of gender-sensitive welfare policies if equitable and healthy labor markets are to be achieved in Europe.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. Operationalization according to the wage levels defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2020b).

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Jessie Gevaert and Mireia Bolíbar for their helpful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript, as well as for their methodological advice.

Funding

The research leading to these results was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities under grant agreement Nº CSO2016-79103R (AEI/FEDER, UE), and by the ICREA Academia program, which financially supports the work of JB. Funders were not involved in the study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data, in the writing of the manuscript, and in the decision to submit it for publication.

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Authors

Contributions

All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by EP. The first draft of the manuscript was written by EP and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eva Padrosa.

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Appendices

Appendix

Appendix 1 Operationalization of the EPRES-E structure.

  Indicator Operationalisation Response options
Temporariness Duration of current contract Combination of: (a) what type of contract do you have; b) what is the duration of your current contract? 0. Permanent contract
1. Temporary, >  = 1 year
2. Temporary, no exact duration
3. Temporary, 6–11 months
4. Temporary, < 6 months
Tenure How many years have you been in your company or organization? 0. More than 10 years
1. 10–5 years
2. 5–3 years
3. 3–1 year
4. Less than 1 year
Disempowerment Trade unions Does a trade union, works council or a similar committee representing employees exist at your organization? 0. Yes
1. No
2. Don’t know
Meetings Does a regular meeting in which employees can express their views about what is happening in the organization exist at your organization? 0. Yes
1. No
2. Don’t know
Vulnerability Respect of boss Your immediate boss respects you as a person 0. Strongly agree
1. Tend to agree
2. Neither agree nor disagree
3. Tend to disagree
4. Strongly disagree
Fair treatment You are treated fairly at your workplace 0. Always
1. Most of the time
2. Sometimes
3. Rarely
4. Never
Exercise of rights Break when you need it You can take a break when you wish 0. Always
1. Most of the time
2. Sometimes
3. Rarely
4. Never
Hours off for personal matters Would you say that for you arranging to take an hour or two off during working hours to take care of personal or family matters is… 0. Very easy
1. Fairly easy
2. Fairly difficult
3. Very difficult
Uncertain working times Schedule unpredictability Do changes to your working time arrangements occur regularly? If yes, how long before are you informed about these changes? 0. No
1. Yes, several weeks in advance
2. Yes, several days in advance
3. Yes, the day before
4. Yes, the same day
Work at short notice How often have you been requested to come into work at short notice? 0. Never
1. Less often
2. Several times a month
3. Several times a week
4. Daily
Working times regularity Combination of: do you work (a) the same number of hours every day; b) the same number of days every week; c) the same number of hours every week; (d) fixed starting and finishing times? 0. Very high (yes on all)
1. High (no on at least one)
2. Medium (no on at least two)
3. Low (no on at least three)
4. Very low (no on all)
Wages Net earnings per month Net monthly earnings from your main paid job 0. High earnings (more than 1.5 of the median population)Footnote

Operationalization according to the wage levels defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2020b).

1. Medium–high earnings (between the median and high earnings)
2. Medium–low earnings (between the median and low earnings)
3. Low earnings (less than 0.6 of the median population)
Net earnings per hour Combination of: (a) net monthly earnings from your main paid job; b) how many hours do you usually work per week in your main paid job? 0. High earnings (more than 1.5 of the median population)
1. Medium–high earnings (between the median and high earnings)
2. Medium–low earnings (between the median and low earnings)
3. Low earnings (less than 0.6 of the median population)
  1. aItem discarded after further analysis.

Appendix 2 Characteristics of complete and incomplete cases (European Working Conditions Survey 2015, selected countriesa)

  Overall   Continental   Scandinavian   Anglo-Saxon   Southern   Central-Eastern  
  C
n = 18435
I
n = 4120
χ 2 C
n = 7092
I
n = 1282
χ 2 C
n = 3170
I
n = 214
χ 2 C
n = 1597
I
n = 354
χ 2 C
n = 3105
I
n = 1199
χ 2 C
n = 3471
I
n = 1071
χ 2
Gender
 Men 8737 (47.40) 1984 (48.16) 3445 (48.58) 632 (49.30) 1472 (46.45) 100 (46.73) 789 (49.44) 171 (48.31) 1555 (50.10) 584 (48.71) 1476 (42.52) 497 (46.41) *
 Women 9694 (52.60) 2136 (51.84) 3646 (51.42) 650 (50.70)   1697 (53.55) 114 (53.27)   807 (50.56) 183 (51.69)   1549 (49.90) 615 (51.29)   1995 (57.48) 574 (53.59)  
Age
 16–25 1543 (8.37) 358 (8.69) 606 (8.54) 124 (9.67) 288 (9.09) 45 (21.03) * 159 (9.96) 36 (10.17) 229 (7.38) 71 (5.92) 261 (7.52) 82 (7.66)
 26–35 4152 (22.52) 847 (20.56) 1674 (23.60) 266 (20.75) 614 (19.37) 28 (13.08) 367 (22.98) 71 (20.06) 694 (22.35) 253 (21.10) 803 (23.13) 229 (21.38)
 36–45 4942 (26.81) 1146 (27.82) 1872 (26.40) 326 (25.43) 767 (24.20) 38 (17.76) 434 (27.18) 93 (26.27) 973 (1.34) 376 (31.36) 896 (25.81) 313 (29.23)
 56–55 5153 (27.95) 1183 (28.71) 1966 (27.72) 384 (29.95) 902 (18.90) 47 (26.17) 429 (26.86) 97 (27.40) 836 (26.92) 366 (30.53) 1020 (29.39) 289 (26.98)
 56–64 2645 (14.35) 586 (14.22) 974 (13.73) 182 (14.20) 599 (18.90) 56 (26.17) 208 (13.02) 57 (16.10) 373 (12.01) 133 (11.09) 491 (14.15) 158 (14.75)
Place of birth
 Country of residence 16218 (88.55) 3685 (90.16) * 5962 (84.14) 1094 (85.47) 2883 (91.00) 191 (89.25) 1344 (84.32) 288 (81.59) 2838 (91.43) 1118 (93.32) * 3191 (94.86) 994 (95.39)
 Other 2098 (11.45) 402 (9.84) 1124 (15.86) 186 (14.53) 285 (9.00) 23 (10.75) 250 (15.68) 65 (18.41) 266 (8.57) 80 (6.68) 173 (5.14) 48 (4.61)
Educational attainment
 Low 2682 (14.58) 630 (15.44) 976 (13.79) 207 (16.30) 252 (7.96) 32 (14.95) * 390 (24.62) 99 (28.61) 873 (28.15) 238 (19.97) * 191 (5.51) 54 (5.10)
 Medium 9107 (49.50) 2047 (50.17) 3830 (54.10) 658 (51.81) 1326 (41.91) 100 (46.73) 422 (26.64) 102 (29.48) 1352 (43.60) 528 (44.30) 2177 (62.76) 659 (62.29)
 High 6608 (35.92) 1403 (34.39) 2273 (32.11) 405 (31.89) 1586 (50.13) 82 (38.32) 772 (48.74) 145 (41.91) 876 (28.25) 426 (35.74) 1101 (31.74) 345 (32.61)
Mental health
 Good 15460 (83.86) 3434 (83.35) 5920 (83.47) 1095 (85.41) 2748 (86.69) 179 (83.64) 1254 (78.52) 287 (81.07) 2715 (87.44) 1015 (84.65) * 2823 (81.33) 858 (80.11)
 Fair 2975 (16.14) 686 (16.65) 1172 (16.53) 187 (14.59) 422 (13.31) 35 (6.36) 343 (21.48) 67 (18.93) 390 (12.56) 184 (15.35) 648 (18.67) 213 (19.89)
  1. C Complete cases, I Incomplete cases. χ2 Chi-squared test
  2. *p value < 0.005
  3. aCountries included: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK

Appendix 3 Multilevel models of mental health, complete case analysis (European Working Conditions Survey 2015, selected countriesa)

  M0 M1 M2 M3 M4
  OR 95% CI OR 95% CI OR 95% CI OR 95% CI OR 95% CI
Men
 Fixed effects
  Intercept 0.14 (0.13–0.16) 0.04 (0.04–0.16) 0.04 (0.03–0.06) 0.03 (0.01–0.10) 0.03 (0.01–0.10)
  EPRES-E
   Q1 (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref)
   Q2 1.39 (1.16–1.67) 1.39 (1.60–1.67) 1.39 (1.16–1.67) 1.41 (1.08–1.85)
   Q3 1.94 (1.63–2.33) 1.94 (1.62–2.32) 1.94 (1.62–2.32) 1.77 (1.35–2.32)
   Q4 3.20 (2.68–3.81) 3.16 (2.66–3.77) 3.17 (2.66–3.78) 3.03 (2.34–3.92)
  Age 1.01 (1.01–1.02) 1.01 (1.01–1.02) 1.01 (1.01–1.02) 1.01 (1.01–1.02)
  Place of birth
   Country of residence (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref)
   Other 0.95 (0.80–1.13) 0.95 (0.80–1.13) 0.94 (0.79–1.12) 0.95 (0.80–1.13)
  Educational attainment
   Low (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref)
   Medium 1.03 (0.86–1.21) 1.02 (0.87–1.20) 1.02 (0.87–1.20) 1.01 (0.86–1.18)
   High 1.10 (0.92–1.32) 1.10 (0.92–1.31) 1.10 (0.92–1.31) 1.10 (0.91–1.30)
  Welfare state
   Continental (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref)
   Scandinavian 0.79 (0.56–1.09) 0.82 (0.54–1.24) 0.68 (0.40–1.14)
   Anglo-Saxon 1.29 (0.86–1.93) 1.41 (0.85–2.34) 1.44 (0.78–2.65)
   Southern 0.76 (0.55–1.07) 0.78 (0.44–1.37) 0.98 (0.51–1.89)
   Central-Eastern 1.02 (0.75–1.38) 1.16 (0.62–2.16) 0.81 (0.37–1.77)
  EPRES-E*Welfare states
   Q2*Scandinavian 1.11 (0.66–1.87)
   Q2*Anglo-Saxon 0.94 (0.54–1.62)
   Q2*Southern 0.69 (0.40–1.20)
   Q2*Central-Eastern 1.31 (0.70–2.44)
   Q3*Scandinavian 1.39 (0.83–2.34)
   Q3*Anglo-Saxon 1.14 (0.67–1.93)
   Q3*Southern 0.82 (0.48–1.38)
   Q3*Central-Eastern 1.52 (0.85–2.73)
   Q4*Scandinavian 1.39 (0.84–2.31)
   Q4*Anglo-Saxon 0.87 (0.53–1.44)
   Q4*Southern 0.75 (0.46–1.21)
   Q4*Central-Eastern 1.54 (0.89–2.69)
 Random effects
  Intercept 0.07 (0.03–0.14) 0.07 (0.04–0.16) 0.05 (0.02–0.12)
  EPRES-E 0.03 (0.02–0.11) 0.04 (0.02–0.10)
  Covariance 0.04 (0.01–0.08)
Women
 Fixed effects
  Intercept 0.17 (0.15–0.19) 0.07 (0.05–0.09) 0.07 (0.05–0.10) 0.06 (0.03–0.12) 0.03 (0.01–0.09)
  EPRES-E
   Q1 (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref)
   Q2 1.20 (1.02–1.42) 1.20 (1.04–1.41) 1.20 (1.02–1.41) 1.09 (0.84–1.47)
   Q3 1.62 (1.38–1.90) 1.61 (1.51–1.89) 1.62 (1.38–1.90) 1.32 (1.03–1.68)
   Q4 2.39 (2.04–2.80) 2.38 (2.51–2.79) 2.39 (2.04–2.80) 2.03 (1.61–2.56)
  Age 1.01 (1.01–1.02) 1.01 (1.01–1.02) 1.01 (1.01–1.02) 1.01 (1.01–1.02)
  Place of birth
   Country of residence (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref)
   Other 0.95 (0.81–1.11) 0.95 (0.78–1.11) 0.94 (0.80–1.10) 0.94 (0.81–1.10)
  Educational attainment
   Low (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref)
   Medium 0.89 (0.77–1.04) 0.89 (0.73–1.03) 0.89 (0.77–1.04) 0.88 (0.76–1.03)
   High 1.05 (0.90–1.23) 1.05 (0.89–1.22) 1.05 (0.90–1.23) 1.06 (0.90–1.23)
  Welfare state
   Continental (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref) (ref)
   Scandinavian 0.91 (0.53–1.31) 0.79 (0.51–1.22) 0.70 (0.42–1.17)
   Anglo-Saxon 1.17 (0.58–1.84) 1.58 (0.91–2.73) 1.32 (0.68–2.56)
   Southern 0.86 (0.49–1.24) 1.12 (0.62–1.99) 0.91 (0.46–1.78)
   Central-Eastern 1.09 (0.68–1.52) 1.94 (0.99–3.80) 1.18 (0.55–2.55)
 EPRES-E*Welfare states
   Q2*Scandinavian 1.07 (0.69–1.66)
   Q2*Anglo-Saxon 1.07 (0.60–1.91)
   Q2*Southern 1.27 (0.75–2.15)
   Q2*Central-Eastern 1.45 (0.87–2.42)
   Q3*Scandinavian 1.25 (0.81–1.91)
   Q3*Anglo-Saxon 1.18 (0.69–2.02)
   Q3*Southern 1.43 (0.87–2.33)
   Q3*Central-Eastern 1.89 (1.16–3.05)
   Q4*Scandinavian 1.10 (0.72–1.68)
   Q4*Anglo-Saxon 1.34 (0.82–2.20)
   Q4*Southern 1.15 (0.71–1.85)
   Q4*Central-Eastern 1.79 (1.13–2.84)
 Random effects
  Intercept 0.07 (0.04–0.14) 0.08 (0.04–0.16) 0.07 (0.04–0.14)
  EPRES-E 0.06 (0.03–0.12) 0.06 (0.03–0.12)
  Covariance 0.06 (0.01–0.10)
  1. M0: intercept-only. M1: individual-level variables. M2: M1 + country-level variable. M3: M2 + random slope for EPRES-E. M4: M3 + interaction term
  2. Significant results (p < 0.05) are in bold
  3. aCountries included: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK

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Padrosa, E., Vanroelen, C., Muntaner, C. et al. Precarious employment and mental health across European welfare states: a gender perspective. Int Arch Occup Environ Health (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-022-01839-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00420-022-01839-7

Keywords

  • Precarious employment
  • Welfare states
  • Mental health
  • Gender
  • Europe
  • Multi-level