Job insecurity can be defined as a perceptual phenomenon, reflecting the fear of involuntary job loss. One important characteristic with respect to this worry about the future of the employment situation is that it is involuntary. Another distinguishing feature about job insecurity is that it concerns an uncertainty regarding future events. A growing number of studies, including a meta-analysis, have documented that job insecurity is related to job dissatisfaction, impaired organizational commitment, increased turnover intention, and physical as well as mental health complaints. There are also indications that the worry of job loss may be related to factors such as impaired compliance with safety procedures, ischemic heart disease occurrence, and absenteeism.
However, most studies have been cross-sectional and therefore unable to control for initial levels of the outcome variables and examine temporal precedence. Only a few studies have explicitly addressed the issue of direction of relation between job insecurity and such outcomes. The aim of the present study is to shed light on the issue of causality in the relationship between job insecurity and potential outcomes that have attracted comparatively limited research attention – sickness absenteeism and presenteeism. Drawing upon the literature on work stress, it is reasonable to suggest that job insecurity, because of its associations with mental and somatic symptoms, may lead to increased absenteeism from work. Equally plausible, however, would be to assume that individuals with high absenteeism records would feel more at risk in organizations where there is a threat of layoffs. In terms of presenteeism, job insecurity may lead workers to feel a pressure to go to work even when they are unhealthy. In contrast, it may also be that sickness presenteeism is a way to show that one is valuable to the organization, as an attempt to minimize the risk of being seen as redundant in the future.
Longitudinal questionnaire data collected among white-collar workers in a Swedish organization, with a one-year time interval, served as input to cross-lagged analysis. In an attempt to rule out the alternative hypothesis that job insecurity as well as absenteeism and presenteeism are caused by third variables, we controlled for factors such as demographics and well-being. Preliminary analyses reveal that job insecurity was positively associated with subsequent absenteeism, but not with presenteeism, and there was no support for reverse causality. The results suggest that absenteeism may be an important, albeit hitherto rather neglected, outcome of job insecurity, and contribute to the understanding of the development and consequences of job insecurity by shedding light on the issue of sickness absenteeism/presenteeism in this process.