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Atypical Employment and Health: A Meta-Analysis


  • Alice Sanwald


  • Engelbert Theurl



In this meta-analysis we provide new quantitative evidence on the relationship between the characteristics of working contracts and worker's health. We examine 52 studies covering 26 countries in the time period 1984 - 2010 with a combined sample size of 192. We apply a random effects model using odds ratios and their 95\% confidence intervals as measures for the effect size. We distinguish between six types of employment contracts with decreasing security levels (fixed-term, temporary, casual, on-call, daily, no formal contract) and classify the health outcomes into five subgroups (sickness absence, occupational injuries, health-related behavior, mental health and physical health). Furthermore, we control for selected dimensions of the socioeconomic environment of the studies, e.g. the unemployment rate and GDP growth rate. Summary findings show a higher risk of occupational injuries for atypical employees compared to the reference group. Atypical employment increases complaints about mental and physical health and has a negative impact on health-related behavior. Sickness absence works in the opposite direction and permanent employees are more likely to be absent from work. The heterogeneity of the effect sizes between different contracts of atypical employment is low. Effect sizes are country specific and depend on the health outcome indicators. The macroeconomic surrounding - unemployment rate and GDP growth rate - don't cause variation in study results. The 'healthy worker effect' may lead to an overestimation of the impact of workers' atypical employment contract on the health status. More research work which explicitly focuses on the problems of endogeneity, reverse causality and the selection bias is necessary. Furthermore, additional control groups and the employment biography of workers have to be taken into account.

Suggested Citation

  • Alice Sanwald & Engelbert Theurl, 2014. "Atypical Employment and Health: A Meta-Analysis," Working Papers 2014-15, Faculty of Economics and Statistics, University of Innsbruck.
  • Handle: RePEc:inn:wpaper:2014-15

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Guadalupe, Maria, 2003. "The hidden costs of fixed term contracts: the impact on work accidents," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 339-357, June.
    2. Nishikitani, Mariko & Tsurugano, Shinobu & Inoue, Mariko & Yano, Eiji, 2012. "Effect of unequal employment status on workers’ health: Results from a Japanese national survey," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(3), pages 439-451.
    3. Virtanen, P. & Vahtera, J. & Nakari, R. & Pentti, J. & Kivimäki, M., 2004. "Economy and job contract as contexts of sickness absence practices: revisiting locality and habitus," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(7), pages 1219-1229, April.
    4. Menéndez, María & Benach, Joan & Muntaner, Carles & Amable, Marcelo & O'Campo, Patricia, 2007. "Is precarious employment more damaging to women's health than men's?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(4), pages 776-781, February.
    5. Cheng, Yawen & Chen, Chun-Wan & Chen, Chiou-Jong & Chiang, Tung-liang, 2005. "Job insecurity and its association with health among employees in the Taiwanese general population," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 41-52, July.
    6. Carlos García-Serrano & Virginia Hernanz & Luis Toharia, 2010. "Mind the Gap, Please! The Effect of Temporary Help Agencies on the Consequences of Work Accidents," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 162-182, June.
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    8. Groot, Wim, 2000. "Adaptation and scale of reference bias in self-assessments of quality of life," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 403-420, May.
    9. Layes, Audrey & Asada, Yukiko & Kephart, George, 2012. "Whiners and deniers – What does self-rated health measure?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 1-9.
    10. Stefani Scherer, 2009. "The Social Consequences of Insecure Jobs," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 93(3), pages 527-547, September.
    11. N. Lesca, 2011. "Introduction," Post-Print halshs-00640604, HAL.
    12. O'Campo, Patricia & Eaton, William W. & Muntaner, Carles, 2004. "Labor market experience, work organization, gender inequalities and health status: results from a prospective analysis of US employed women," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 585-594, February.
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    More about this item


    Meta-Analysis; Atypical Employment; Health Outcomes; Employment Contracts;

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • J5 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining

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