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The Family and the Household as a Buffer for Labor Market Insecurity

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Labor income is the prime income source in most households in modern capitalist societies. Thus, large parts of the population rely on stable jobs to maintain their standard of living and employment interruptions such as job loss often lead to downward mobility. However, the effects of job loss and unemployment on a person’s standard of living are not determined by losses in labor income alone. Because of the risks entailed by job loss, all modern welfare states implemented some form of unemployment insurance. Furthermore, there are two other ways through which downward income mobility after job loss may be mitigated. First, rapid re-employment in a well-paid job may maintain economic well-being. Second, other household members could provide income or other resources to offset the losses. Hence, the extent of economic insecurity due to labor market risks emerges from the nexus between the market, the family and the state.

Previous research on labor market insecurity has mainly focused on factors emerging from the market and the state. This project aims to explore the role of the family as a safeguard against risks generated by the labor market. Specifically, it covers (a) family influences on the incidence of job loss, (b) buffering of income losses through other household members’ incomes and other resources, and (c) counter-mobility strategies in the household such as increases in work hours on part of the partner. Since family resources are unequally distributed, this perspective helps to explain inequalities in incidences and outcomes of job loss and other labor market insecurities.