The Role of Unemployment and Job Insecurity for the Well-Being of Young Europeans: Social Inequality as a Macro-Level Moderator

  • Kadri TahtEmail author
  • Despoina Xanthopoulou
  • Lia Figgou
  • Marialena Kostouli
  • Marge Unt
Research Paper


The aim of the current paper was to investigate the moderating role of both objective and subjective country-level social (income) inequality on the relationship between employment status and well-being. The focus was on young Europeans (aged 16–29) and a multilevel perspective with individuals nested within 28 countries was adopted. Based on conservation of resources theory, the central hypothesis was that labor market (LM) insecurity will be particularly detrimental for young Europeans’ well-being in countries characterized by high (vs. low) inequality. The results showed that unfavorable LM positions indeed impair young Europeans cognitive (i.e., life satisfaction) and affective (i.e., negative affect) well-being. We found support for the moderating role of both objective (i.e. the income share held by the lowest 10% of the country) and perceived social inequality on the relationship between employment status and life satisfaction. Namely, the negative relationship between unfavorable LM conditions (and particularly job insecurity) and youth well-being tended to be weaker or nonexistent in more equal societies. Our findings highlight the important role of social (income) inequality, both objective and perceived, in understanding the conditions under which unemployment and job insecurity may be particularly detrimental for young individuals’ well-being.


Job insecurity Social inequality Subjective well-being Young Europeans Unemployment 



This project has received funding from the Estonian Research Council grant “My time, Your time, Our time. Household time allocation—choice or inevitability?” (PUT1182).


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Governance, Law and SocietyTallinn UniversityTallinnEstonia
  2. 2.School of Psychology, Aristotle University of ThessalonikiThessalonikiGreece

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