Two is worse than one. The mediating role of precariousness of life in the association between qualitative job insecurity and distress among Italian temps


Nowadays, the labour market’s instability and flexibility has led to increased feelings of uncertainty, insecurity and precariousness in the workforce. With respect to psychological health, to date studies focused mainly on the consequences of the fear of losing the job as a whole (i.e. quantitative job insecurity), in comparison to the consequences of threat of losing valued job features (i.e. qualitative job insecurity). Understanding the psychological mechanisms that explain the process of stress experiences, deriving from qualitative job insecurity, may contribute to identify how to promote healthier workplaces. The present study aimed to examine the mediating role of precariousness of life in the relationship between qualitative job insecurity and mental distress, i.e. emotional exhaustion and psychological symptoms. Precariousness of life is a pervasive syndrome among temporary employees affecting their daily life. The Conservation Of Resources (COR) and dual labour market theories were used as theoretical framework to draw the research hypotheses. The sample was composed of 272 white and blue collar Italian temporary employees. The results of structural equation modelling revealed that qualitative job insecurity was positively and significantly related to emotional exhaustion and psychological symptoms. Furthermore, these relationships were mediated by precariousness of life: Goodness of fit indices of mediation model was satisfactory and indirect effects were significant, therefore supporting our hypotheses. This study provided additional evidence to the literature concerning job insecurity as it focused on temporary workers, examining the effect on mental health by qualitative job insecurity via precariousness of life. Practical implications were discussed.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20705948v13n3p634

Keywords: Qualitative job insecurity; precariousness of life; emotional exhaustion; psychological symptoms; temporary employees; mediation analysis


Abildgaard, J.S., Nielsen, K., and Sverke, M. (2018). Can job insecurity be managed? Evaluating an organizational level intervention addressing the negative effects of restructuring. Work & Stress, 32(2): 105–123.

Aikens, K., Astin, J., Pelletier, K. R., Levanovich, K., Baase, C. M., Park, Y. Y., et al. (2014). Mindfulness goes to work: impact of an online workplace intervention. Journal of Occupational

and Environmental Medicine, 56: 721–731.

Allvin, M., Mellner, C., Movitz, F., and Aronsson, G. (2013). The diffusion of flexibility: Estimating the incidence of low-regulated working conditions. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, 3: 99– 116.

Bajaj, B., Gupta, R., and Pande, N. (2016). Self-esteem mediates the relationship between mindfulness and well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 94: 96–100.

Boya, F. O., Demiral, Y., Ergör, A., Akvardar, Y., and De Witte, H. (2008). Effects of perceived job insecurity on perceived anxiety and depression in nurses. Industrial Health, 46: 613–619.

Brondino, M., Bazzoli, A., Vander Elst, T., De Witte, H., and Pasini, M. (2020). Validation and measurement invariance of the multidimensional qualitative job insecurity scale. Quality &

Quantity, 54: 925–942.

Brown, K. W. and Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psycho- logical well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4): 822–848.

Brown, T. A. (2015). Confirmatory factor analysis for applied research. The Guilford Press, New York, NY (2nd Edition).

Callea, A., Lo Presti, A., Mauno, S., and Urbini, F. (2019). The Associations of Quantitative/Qualitative Job Insecurity and Well-Being: The Role of Self-Esteem. International Journal of

Stress Management, 26(1): 46–56.

Callea, A., Urbini, F., and Bucknor, D. (2012). Temporary employment in Italy and its consequences on gender. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 27(6): 380–394.

Callea, A., Urbini, F., and Lo Presti, A. (2016a). Valutare la salute dei lavoratori a tempo determinato: Validazione del Precariousness of Life Inventory (PLI-9) – versione breve [Evaluating the health of fixed-term workers: Validation of the Precariousness of Life Inventory – short version]. Psicologia della Salute, 1: 133–149.

Cheng, G. H. L., and Chan, D. K. S. (2008). Who suffers more from job insecurity? A meta-analytic review. Applied Psychology, 57: 272–303.

Chirumbolo, A., and Areni, A. (2010). Job insecurity influence on and job performance and mental health: Testing the moderating effect of the need for closure. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 31: 195–214.

Chirumbolo, A., Callea, A., and Urbini, F. (2020). Job insecurity and performance in public and private sectors: a moderated mediation model. Journal of Organizational Effectiveness: People

and Performance, 7(2): 237-253.

Chirumbolo, A., Urbini, F., Callea, A., Lo Presti, A., and Talamo, A. (2017). Occupations at Risk and Organizational Well-Being: An Empirical Test of a Job Insecurity Integrated Model. Frontiers in

Psychology, 8: 2084.

Ciavolino, E. (2012). General distress as second order latent variable estimated through PLS-PM approach. Electronic Journal of Applied Statistical Analysis, 5(3): 458-464.

Daubenmier, J., Hayden, D., Chang, V., and Epel, E. (2014). It’s

not what you think, it’s how you relate to it: Dispositional mindfulness moderates the relationship between psychological distress and the cortisol awakening response. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 48: 11–18.

De Cuyper, N., and De Witte, H. (2007). Job insecurity in temporary versus permanent workers: Associations with attitudes, well-being, and behaviour. Work & Stress, 21: 65–84

De Cuyper, N., Notelaers, G., and De Witte, H. (2009). Transitioning between temporary and permanent employment: a two-wave study on the entrapment, the stepping stone and the selection hypothesis. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 82: 67–88.

De Witte, H., De Cuyper, N., Handaja, Y., Sverke, M., Näswall, K., and Hellgren, J. (2010). Associations between quantitative and qualitative job insecurity and well-being. International

Studies of Management & Organization, 40: 40–56.

De Witte, H., Pienaar, J., & De Cuyper, N. (2016). Review of 30 years of longitudinal studies on the association between job insecurity and health and well-being: Is there causal evidence? Australian Psychologist, 51: 18–31.

European Commission (2018) Employment and Social Developments in Europe. Annual Review 2018. European Commission, Luxembourg.

Eurostat. (2019). Employment statistics. Retrieved from

Greenhalgh, L. and Rosenblatt, Z. (1984). Job insecurity: Toward conceptual clarity. The Academy of Management Review, 9: 438–448.

Hellgren, J., Sverke, M., and Isaksson, K. (1999). A two-dimensional approach to job insecurity: Consequences for employee attitudes and well-being. European Journal of Work and

Organizational Psychology, 8: 179–195.

Hobfoll, S. E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist, 44(3): 513–524.

Hobfoll, S. E. (2001). The influence of culture, community, and the nested-self in the stress process: Advancing conservation of resources theory. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 50:337–421.

Ingusci, E., Manuti, A., and Callea, A. (2016). Employability as mediator in the relationship between the meaning of working and job search behaviours during unemployment. Electronic Journal of Applied Statistical Analysis, 9(1): 1-16.

ISTAT (2019). Istituto Nazionale di Statistica. Retrieved from

Lazarus, R. S. and Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal and coping. Springer, New York, NY.

Lehto, A. M. and Sutela, H. (2008). Three decades of working conditions. Helsinki, Finland: Statistics Finland. Retrieved from

Lo Presti, A., Callea, A., and Pluviano, S. (2019). To Be or not To Be Temp? An Analysis of the Moderating Role of Motives for Accepting Temporary Employment. Canadian Journal of

Administrative Sciences, 36: 473–483.

Lo Presti, A. and Nonnis, M. (2012). Moderated effects of job insecurity on work engagement and distress. Testing, Psychometrics, Methodology in Applied Psychology, 19: 97–113.

MacKinnon, D. P. (2008). Introduction to statistical mediation analysis. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ.

MacKinnon, D.P., Lockwood, C.M., and Williams, J. (2004). Confidence limits for the indirect effect: distribution of the product and resampling methods, Multivariate Behavioral Research, 39(1): 99–128.

Martinez, G., De Cuyper, N., and De Witte, H. (2010). Review of temporary employment literature: Perspectives for research and development in Latin America. Psykhe 19(1): 61–73.

Maslach, C. and Jackson, S. E. (1981). The measurement of experienced burnout. Journal of Occupational Behaviour, 2: 99–113.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2017). Labour Force Statistics 2017. OECD, Paris, France.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2018). Employment outlook. Retrieved from (accessed 1 June 2019).

Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Lee, J. Y., and Podsakoff, N. P. (2003). Common method biases in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of

Applied Psychology, 88: 879–903.

Preacher, K. J. and Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40: 879–891.

Reich, M., Gordon, D., and Edwards, R. (1973). Dual labor markets: A theory of labor market segmentation. American Economic Review, 63(2): 359–365.

Richter, A., Näswall, K., de Cuyper, N., Sverke, M., de Witte, H., and Hellgren, J. (2013). Coping with job insecurity: Exploring effects on perceived health and organizational attitudes. Career

Development International, 18(5): 484–502.

Shoss, M. K. (2017). Job insecurity: An integrative review and agenda for future research. Journal of Management, 43: 1911-1939.

Sirigatti, S. and Stefanile, S. (1993). MBI: Maslach Burnout Inventory (Adattamento italiano) [Italian version]. O.S. Organizzazioni Speciali, Firenze, Italy.

Sverke, M. and Hellgren, J. (2002). The nature of job insecurity: Understanding employment uncertainty on the brink of a new millennium. Applied Psychology, 51: 23– 42.

Sverke, M., Hellgren, J., and Näswall, K. (2002). No security: A meta-analysis and review of job insecurity and its consequences. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 7: 242–264.

Taylor, N. Z. and Millear, P. M. R. (2016). The contribution of mindfulness to predicting burnout in the workplace. Personality and Individual Differences, 89: 123–128.

Tu, Y., Long, L., Wang, H.-J., and Jiang, L. (2020). To Prevent or to Promote: How Regulatory Focus Moderates the Differentiated Effects of Quantitative Versus Qualitative Job Insecurity on

Employee Stress and Motivation. International Journal of Stress Management, 27(2): 135-145.

Ugwu, F. O. and Asogwa, F. (2015). Examining the moderating role of mindfulness in the relationship between perceived job insecurity and psychological wellbeing among

telecommunication workers in Nigeria. Journal of Management and Social Sciences, 3(1): 72–88.

Urbanaviciute, I., Lazauskaite-Zabielske, J., Vander Elst, T., Bagdziuniene, D., and De Witte, H. (2015). Qualitative job insecurity, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment: The mediating role of control perceptions. Psihologia Resurselor Umane, 13: 217–231.

Vander Elst, T., Richter, A., Sverke, M., Näswall, K., De Cuyper, N., and De Witte, H. (2014). Threat of losing valued job features: The role of perceived control in mediating the effect of qualitative

job insecurity on job strain and psychological withdrawal. Work & Stress, 28: 143–164.

Wagenaar, A. F, Taris, T. W., Houtman, I. L. D. et al. (2012). Labour contracts in the European Union, 2000–2005: Differences among demographic groups and implications for the quality of

working life and work satisfaction. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 21(2): 169–194.

Full Text: pdf

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.