Measuring and Explaining Self-Perceived Employment Risks

Friday, 3 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
TW2.1.03 (Tower Two)
Andrea Hense, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany
Empirical findings show, that employees are increasingly concerned about job and income insecurities, and that this affects their well-being and social relationships. Nevertheless, a theory-guided analytical framework is missing that explains why certain employees are more likely to perceive higher risks than others. While psychological theories help to understand the cognitive part of this mechanism, the sociological part and the development of a theory-guided analysis of socio-structural impacts are largely neglected. Thus, I will present an explanatory model that combines Lindenberg's social production function theory with Bourdieu's field and habitus theory. The resulting PFH-model consists of three parts: the production (P), the field (F), and the habitus (H) theory. Firstly, self-perceived risks are explained by unequal assets (factors of production, capital) for the production or substitution of wage labor. Secondly, a field-theoretical contextualization accounts for the social conditions under which the assets are employed. Third, a habitus-theoretical dynamization of the model takes preceding social conditions into account that generated the patterns of perception.

The derived hypotheses are tested empirically using German panel data from 1985-2011. The production theory explains why employees with lower credentials, lower job status and fixed-term contracts perceive higher risks. Moreover, people who live in households with a lower percentage of employees and a lower household income as well as working-class children perceive higher risks. The field theory explains why rising local unemployment rates and reduced decommodification increase self-perceived risks. These perceptions increased constantly over the last decades and fundamentally after the Hartz reforms. But due to decommodification strategies they remained stable in the Eastern part of Germany and decreased in the Western part of Germany in 2008. Finally, the habitus theory explains why citizens of the former GDR and people who experienced unemployment and displacement perceive higher risks.