Mental health among young workers : the impact of job quality

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Youth employment is becoming increasingly more difficult and diversified. Today many young adults (18-34) live under precarious employment conditions (e.g. temporary / part-time), have problems in finding stable employment, are underemployed (e.g. not well-matched to their jobs in terms of skills and / or working hours), and many are stuck in low quality jobs with few opportunities to move up the employment ladder. These difficult working life experiences create a risk that the way young adults experience work in contemporary labour markets may undermine their basic psychological needs for control, security and autonomy. To date, the information surrounding issues of job quality and mental health among this particularly disadvantaged and vulnerable population has been scarce, and often limited to earnings and employment status as an indication of how well young individuals fare in paid work. The overarching aim of this study is to examine job quality, its determinants and mental hea lth outcomes among young workers in contemporary labour markets. To address this aim, this study uses a secondary research design. Three large-scale social surveys are used to examine research objectives and hypotheses: (1) the European Working Conditions Survey (2015); (2) the European Social Survey (2010); and (3) the UK Labour Force Survey (2017). The focus of this study is on the UK context, which has been shown to have high rates of youth underemployment and a large proportion of young people employed in precarious forms of employment. For hypotheses related to the role of institutional context in affecting job quality and mental health, three other European countries (Denmark, Germany and Spain) are included. Young workers aged 18-34 are considered due to increasingly longer transitions to employment and adulthood in contemporary labour markets which often extend into early 30s. The findings point to the salience of job quality in the youth context and the importance ofa holistic approach, which considers intrinsic aspects of work and contextual factors. Examining the outcomes of job quality in terms of mental health further emphasises the importance of job quality for young people and indicate that, in addition to the need for work to be good in terms of more universal aspects (such as high social support), the impact of job quality on mental health depends on the extent to which jobs are in line with young workers'€™ abilities and needs. In relation to this, perceived employability is found to be an important personal resource in the youth context, which may help to alleviate the negative effects of being in undesirable employment. This study has important policy implications and makes theoretical contributions in relation to our understanding of job quality in the youth context, its determinants and mental health outcomes.
Date of Award28 Feb 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)
SupervisorPatricia Findlay (Supervisor) & Dora Scholarios (Supervisor)

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