A Bad Job is Worse than Unemployment for Your Mental Health

Since the global recession, the job market has managed to hold up better than economists thought it would. Employment appears to have bounced back quicker than it dropped during the financial crisis.  In contrast, the quality of work hasn’t fared well, with poor quality, unstable, and temporary jobs getting in the way of productivity, as well as the value and well being of the workforce.

Many employers see temporary or zero-hour contracts as the means to gain flexibility in order to meet unexpected demand and lower costs. However, the consequences for people hired with no guarantee of work can often lead to damaging psycho-social effects on their mental health. It gives rise to the question of whether or not unemployed individuals are always better off in work.

Based on social norms and wisdom, being in work is good for one’s income, self-esteem, dignity, relationships and health, regardless of the nature and quality of the job. Working a poor quality job that is tedious, mundane or representative of a poor match for one’s skill is often perceived as a good way for the unemployed to remain in touch with the labor market as well as to retain the work habit.

Those who moved into optimal jobs showed significant improvement in mental health compared to those who remained unemployed. Those respondents who moved into poor-quality jobs showed a significant worsening in their mental health compared to those who remained unemployed.

In a survey conducted by the Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA), it was found that work of poor psychosocial quality does not grant the same mental health benefits as employment in jobs with high psychosocial quality. In other words, there is a clear association between mental health and being engaged in good quality work. In addition, the study found that the mental health of those who are unemployed is actually superior to those in jobs of the poorest psychosocial quality.

Just as it’s important to have a job, it’s equally as important to know whether the job in question entails good quality work. If it doesn’t have a positive effect on one’s productivity and health, chances are that the individual would be better off working elsewhere, or not working at all until a worthy opportunity arises.

via TheConversation