Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Risk Perceptions and Risk Preferences in an Era of Precarity and Austerity

In an era of labor market precarity and welfare state austerity, workers in capitalist economies are exposed to manifold risks. How they perceive these risks is an emerging topic of interest. In keeping with the welfare state's role as a risk manager, labor market policies are found to directly impact workers' risk perceptions. However, the dearth of theoretical development, coupled with a lack of conceptual clarity, has hindered our understanding of the policies and labor market conditions that influence workers' risk perceptions. This dissertation explores four types of risk perceptions. Job insecurity is the cognitive assessment of an unpredictable, uncontrollable threat to one's job. Employment insecurity is a belief that, in the event of job loss, a comparable job cannot be found. The third type of insecurity is anxiety about job loss, termed affective insecurity. This dissertation argues that these concepts should be modeled separately in policy research, a practice seldom followed. I also develop the concept of precarity avoidance, a cognitive aversion to precarious labor market situations. Combined, this dissertation explores, from a comparative perspective, what causes workers to feel threatened, what they fear, and what labor market outcomes they hope to avoid. I explore the risk perceptions of adult non-agricultural workers in 25 capitalist countries using survey data from three waves of the International Social Survey Program's (ISSP) Work Orientations Module, matched with country-level indicators. Chapter 2 analyzes the effect of labor market and policy changes on job insecurity, concluding that fluctuations in the unemployment rate and GDP are the strongest predictors of job insecurity. In Chapter 3, I model job insecurity and employment insecurity as mediators between policy and affective insecurity. This model is rejected in favor of one that directly links policy to affective insecurity. Precarity avoidance is, in Chapter 4, hypothesized to depend on labor market rigidity, as determined by employment protection legislation. Protected workers show markedly greater aversion to temporary work than unprotected workers in rigid labor markets, a schism not seen in flexible labor markets.