Enhancing employee health in flexible labour markets: a cross-country investigation into the buffering effect of adult education participation against perceived job insecurity
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The rise of non-standard jobs in Europe is believed to subject a growing amount of employees to increasing job and social insecurity, which in turn can harm their health. The European Union addresses this issue through adult education programs, but their overall effectiveness remains uncertain. This research examined the impact of labour market flexibility, in the form of the proportion of temporary employment and employment protection, on cognitive and affective perceived job insecurity. It also investigated whether adult education participation (AEP) moderates this relationship. Utilising a cross-country multilevel regression analysis with data from 16 European Member states (N =9226), it was found that a higher proportion of temporary employment predicts higher cognitive perceived job insecurity, but did not predict higher affective perceived job insecurity. Employment protection did not predict either form of perceived job insecurity. No evidence of moderation through AEP was found, although AEP independently predicted lower cognitive and affective perceived job insecurity. This aligns with existing literature suggesting a Matthew's effect in adult learning programmes and questioning its current ability to protect vulnerable employees on the labour market. It is recommended to improve data collection on the topic, do further research on the relationship between both cognitive and affective perceived job insecurity and employee health, and investigate what barriers vulnerable people on the labour market experience in participating in adult education and how they can be motivated and enabled to do so. With this additional research, policy-making can be informed in order to achieve labour markets that can maintain flexible while also offering sufficient protection against social insecurity to their employees, ultimately leading to improved health outcomes.