An Epidemic of Insecurity?

  • Joseph Choonara


This chapter asks whether insecurity, treated as the subjective counterpart to precarity, has risen. It considers theories regarding drivers of insecurity, which in many cases aim at explaining a paradox between rising insecurity and relatively stable patterns of employment. It then studies insecurity, which is divided into job tenure insecurity (the fear that a job may be lost) and job status insecurity (the fear of the loss of valued features of the job). It presents a combined picture of the evolution of insecurity, drawing on multiple distinct surveys. This shows that there has been no straightforward secular rise in insecurity since the 1980s. Instead, the trends are complex and appear to reflect a range of different drivers. The chapter also suggests a distinction between acute and generalised job tenure insecurity, proposing that the two forms are driven by different processes. Acute job tenure insecurity follows the pattern of involuntary redundancies in the UK labour force. The trend is for involuntary redundancy to fall through the period and acute job tenure insecurity tends to decline with it. Generalised job tenure insecurity is linked to wider factors including the growing neoliberal ideology of flexibility and the association changes to the experience of work that together lead to engendered insecurity. This rises in the early to mid-1990s and again in the wake of the 2008–2009 recession. Generalised job tenure insecurity is coordinated with job status insecurity, and there is some evidence for heightened job status insecurity in the 1990s, mainly due to work intensification, and in the years after 2008–2009, due to similar changes and also deteriorating pay and concerns over hours of work. Finally, concern about the declining quality of the job seems, if by a narrowing margin, more prevalent than concern about jobs being terminated.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph Choonara
    • 1
  1. 1.School of BusinessUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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