Labour Market Insecurity and Generalized Trust in Welfare State Context


How does labour market insecurity influence generalized social trust? And what role does the welfare state play in moderating this relationship? While the widespread impact of labour market insecurity has become increasingly recognized, its effect on workers’ social attitudes remains under-explored. In particular, little is known about the influence that job insecurity has on generalized social trust. Understanding the relationship between employment insecurity and social trust is important not only because reductions in trust can have important downstream consequences, but also because trust is in itself an important resource for dealing with periods of uncertainty. Investigating the relationship between labour market insecurity and trust also opens up a new perspective on the relationship between welfare states and trust. Social policies such as unemployment benefits and active labour market policies insulate workers from the effects of insecurity, lessening the effect of insecurity on trust. The interaction between individual insecurity, national unemployment support, and social trust attitudes thus provides a new perspective on the often posited link between trust and welfare states. Using multi-level modelling, this article addresses both questions directly. Combining data from the first six waves of the European Social Survey with measures of workers’ labour market insecurity, this article demonstrates that labour market insecurity does has a strong and persistent negative effect on social trust. Moreover, by embedding individual workers in national contexts, this article also shows that social policy can play an important role in alleviating the strain of insecurity on trust.

European Sociological Review, Volume 33, Issue 2, 1 April 2017,