Underemployment and Wellbeing Among Late Career Workers: What's Leisure Got to Do with It?

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 09:30
Location: Dachgeschoss (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Margo HILBRECHT, University of Waterloo, Canada
Steven MOCK, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Bryan SMALE, University of Waterloo, Canada
Although unemployment rates in Canada have fallen to near their pre-2008 recession levels, underemployment rates have been rising. This increase is largely due to factors like organizational restructuring; re-employment in sectors where previous skills are no longer relevant; and an increasingly competitive, educated workforce. Unemployment and underemployment differ conceptually, but their wellbeing consequences are similar. These can include poorer health, higher depression rates, reduced self-esteem, and feelings of despair. Even so, the degree to which wellbeing is affected by underemployment may vary according to personal circumstances, such as whether people can access adequate resources, like income and social support, to lessen its effects. Leisure is a known coping resource for workplace and chronic stressors, and may be a helpful resource for those experiencing underemployment. This study examines how leisure mediates the underemployment-wellbeing relationship, and explores potential moderating factors among late career workers. Undermployment is a pressing concern for this cohort: it can mean the loss of status, potential income, and future career opportunities, with implications for retirement planning.

Using data from Community Wellbeing Surveys conducted by the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (N= 2,562 full-time workers), we drew a subsample of 587 participants age 55 years and older. About one in five were underemployed based on subjective assessments of a mismatch between job requirements and their education/skills.  Following a Conservation of Resources (Hobfall, 1989) framework, where people actively seek and conserve resources to withstand current and future stressful situations, we first examine differences between under- and adequately employed participants. Using linear regression with mediation and moderation, we found that reduced access to leisure-related resources including time for self and socializing, recreation and cultural opportunities in the community, as well as lower perceived income adequacy contributed to diminished wellbeing. Only perceived income adequacy moderated the relationship between income adequacy and employment status.