Throughout the industrialized world, the amount of different non-permanent and part-time employment contracts has increased during the last two decades. Initially, alternative employment was expected to have negative effects for individual well-being, health and organizational attitudes, however, empirical results have been rather inconclusive. To date, a common conclusion is that alternative employment is a heterogeneous phenomenon, which often has been overlooked in previous analyses.
This paper aims at clarifying how different aspects of heterogeneity in the non-standard workforce relate to attitudes, well-being and health outcomes. More specifically, it summarizes Swedish findings of four studies, analyzing the role of heterogeneity in (1) demographics, (2) individual contract motives and work involvement, (3) employment contracts and perceived job characteristics, and (4) employment contracts and preferences for contract versus job.
Data for study 1 and 3 were gathered in 1998, with questionnaires sent to all employees in two large organizations in the health care sector (N = 1505 response rate 61%). For study 2 and 4, questionnaire data from Swedish employees in different organizations in the food industry, education and retail sector were gathered in 2004 (N = 864, response rate 50%). In both data sets, a majority of respondents were employed on permanent full time contracts, which were compared to those in part-time work, fixed-term work and on-call employment on short notice.
Study 1 tested the assumption that well-being, health and attitudes in the temporary workforce vary due to heterogeneity in demographics. However, this hypothesis received only weak support.
Study 2 explored the relevance of voluntary and involuntary contract motives, and work involvement for work-related and general well-being. Indeed, temporary workers with different combinations of contract motives and work involvement differed in work-related and general well-being.
Study 3 tested the role of heterogeneity in contract as compared to heterogeneity in types of jobs that is, perceptions of control, demands and insecurity for predicting individual health complaints. Differentiated employment contracts provided little information, whilst individual perceptions were highly predictive. The specifics of employment conditions played an indirect role, since they interacted with perceived job insecurity.
Study 4 finally considered how different contract types and heterogeneity of individuals’ preference for their contract as well as their job relate to well-being and organizational attitudes. Again, heterogeneity of contract type was less strongly associated with the outcomes than psychological variables in terms of preferences. However, the importance of contract types was revealed in their interaction with preferences.