Job stats point to work insecurity

August 4, 2000

Hype over the transformation of the national economy through the global network revolution has been punctured by a report on the jobless, writes Tim Greenhalgh.

Research published by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex reveals that one in five unemployed men who finds work is jobless again within a year.

Rene Boheim, senior research officer, and Mark Taylor, chief research officer, report that the experience of unemployment can blight people's chances of keeping a job. Individuals who find work after a spell of unemployment are four times more likely to be laid off by their employer and are three times more likely to become unemployed compared with those who move from job to job.

The ISER working paper, The Search for Success: Do the Unemployed Find Stable Employment? uses data from the British Household Panel Survey. The researchers' analysis is based on employment histories of more than 7,000 individuals, interviewed between 1991 and 1997.

They report that less than half of the jobs that follow unemployment for men and women last for 12 months or more - 44 per cent compared with 59 per cent of all jobs. There are two main causes. Those who have been unemployed are more likely to accept temporary jobs and are more likely to be laid off.

Nearly a quarter of the jobs that unemployed men enter are temporary. Another 22 per cent end in redundancies, dismissals or self-employment bankruptcies within a year, with 14 per cent quitting.

The picture is similar for women, although women who have previously been unemployed are more likely than men to quit their new-found job, because of health reasons, to retire, or to have a baby for example, than to be laid off.

Women are about four times more likely than men to enter part-time work from unemployment, while men are more likely to become self-employed or take a full-time job. Unemployed women who take up part-time work tend to have longer job tenure than men - 14.5 months compared with 11.9 months.

Job tenure depends on the length of the preceding period of unemployment. Each additional month spent unemployed results in longer job tenure, provided the time in unemployment is not more than two years.

For men, each month spent unemployed reduces the probability of re-entering unemployment after they have found a job by 8 per cent. This suggests that individuals who spend more time unemployed and searching for work are rewarded with a better worker-firm match.

Mr Taylor said: "If policy-makers want to avoid a situation where the unemployed boomerang from work back to unemployment, they should focus on helping them secure jobs with good prospects."

The report is available for download at www.iser.essex.ac.uk/pubs/workpaps/wp2000-05.htm

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