Is precarious employment damaging to health? A longitudinal study on Italian workers

Silvana Salvini, Università di Firenze
Elena Pirani, Università di Firenze

Forms of insecure employment have dramatically increased all over Europe in recent decades. These changes are sometimes viewed in terms of benefits for workers, when they allow controlling work time, sampling a variety of work experience, preparing for permanent employment, and positively combining work and family life, particularly for women. This vision is contrasted by other scholars, who argued that flexible employment could have negative consequences for both occupational prospects and private life since it is often associated with greater insecurity and poorer working conditions. It has been suggested that temporary employments can damage health, whatever measured: psychological distress, depression, physical health, morbidity, chronic diseases, self-rated health. This paper contributes to the topic of social consequences of precarious employment by investigating the relation between temporary contracts and self-rated health, posing the following research question: are workers on a temporary contract more likely to report poor health than those who are employed in permanent jobs? Most of previous research addresses this topic simply examining associations, where health and employment are measured at the same time and without considering selection effects. In this study, applying the method of inverse probability treatment weights on EU-SILC Italian 2007-2010 panel data, we estimate the causal effect of temporary contracts on self-perceived health. This method enables to control for the potential endogeneity between employment status and health, addressing the problem of self-selection. Our results show that precarious contractual conditions have a negative influence on health, also once controlled for previous health status and endogeneity. Moreover, we find that the negative impact of precariousness is damaging particularly for women's self-perceived health.

  See extended abstract

Presented in Session 55: Health in contexts