Melbourne: Experiencing job insecurity in the form of short-term contracts or casual work over a long period of time may negatively change an individual's personality, according to a study unveiled on Thursday.
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, found that people exposed to job insecurity for more than four years became less emotionally stable, less agreeable, and had reduced conscientiousness.
"Traditionally, we have thought about the short-term consequences of job insecurity -- that it hurts your well-being, physical health, sense of self-esteem," said Lena Wang from RMIT University in Australia.
"But now we are looking at how that actually changes who you are as a person over time, a long-term consequence that you may not even be aware of," Wang said.
The study used nationally representative data from Australia for 1,046 employees over a nine-year period.
It applied a well-established personality framework known as the Big Five, which categorises human personality into five broad traits: emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion and openness.
The results showed that long-term job insecurity negatively affected the first three traits, which relate to a person's tendency to reliably achieve goals, get along with others, and cope with stress.
Wang said the results went against some assumptions about job insecurity.
"Some might believe that insecure work increases productivity because employees will work harder to keep their jobs, but our research suggests this may not be the case if job insecurity persists," she said.
The researchers found that those chronically exposed to job insecurity are more likely to withdraw their effort and shy away from building strong, positive working relationships, which can undermine their productivity in the long run.
Previous research has shown that insecure work -- including labour hire practices, contract and casual work, and underemployment -- is on the rise globally.
The data drew on responses from employees belonging to a broad cross-section of professions and jobs, who were asked about how secure they perceived their jobs to be.
According to study lead author Chia-Huei Wu, a professor at Leeds University in the UK, types of job insecurity might include short-term contracts or casual work, jobs threatened by automation, and positions that could be in line for a redundancy.
Wu said there are ways that employers can support workers who are feeling worried about their jobs.
"This is as much about perceived job insecurity as actual insecure contracts," he said.