PhotoAfter World War II, the goal of every head of household was to find a good job that they could keep until they retired. At that time, they would be able to collect a good pension and live comfortably into their golden years. Unfortunately, this job model does not really exist anymore, and a new study shows that job insecurity is negatively affecting relationships within the family structure.

A changing working world

There are several reasons why the “20-year career and a gold watch” job model does not exist anymore. With the advent of new technology, many companies are going digital and eliminating positions that were once held by working people. After all, why pay someone to do a job that you can have a robot or piece of electronic equipment do? An emerging global market also means that competition for jobs is fiercer than ever before.

These factors have led to job insecurity, where workers are much more likely to be laid off. Current projections show that a person can expect to switch jobs, or locations, at least half a dozen times during their working lives. Evidence of this can be seen in the massive layoffs that big companies have conducted in recent years. For example, Hewlett Packard eliminated 34,000 jobs just last year.

In families that have two wage earners, it is extremely common for one or both of them to feel very insecure in their line of work. Allison Pugh, who is a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, says that that these working conditions encourage a “one-way honor system”, in which workers are dependent on employers but employers are not dependent on their workers.

Family relationships

When examining this working system, Pugh wanted to know how job insecurity affected relationships within the family structure. She interviewed 80 people and asked them about their work lives and their home lives. She found that insecurity culture can blow certain things out of proportion, while also diminishing commitments to our loved ones.

The parent-child relationship is particularly affected by insecurity culture. Teens often see that their parents are working hard, but not reaching the goals that they’re striving for. It can make hard work seem hopeless or pointless, which is a very bad example for young people that will soon be entering the working world themselves.

The interviews that Pugh conducted have been published in her book, “The Tumbleweed Society: Working and Caring in an Age of Insecurity”, which was released earlier this year. 

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