Volume 45 - Article 5 | Pages 141–186  

Union formation under conditions of uncertainty: The objective and subjective sides of employment uncertainty

By Danilo Bolano, Daniele Vignoli


Background: The link between economic forces and family dynamics has received renewed attention in the present era of heightened uncertainty. Economic uncertainty has usually been linked to unfavorable labor market circumstances, such as unemployment and short-term contracts. Nonetheless, union formation may also be affected by subjective appraisals of employment conditions, including employment security and – acknowledging the prospective nature of uncertainty itself –expectations of future employment.

Objective: This study seeks to empirically disentangle the effects of the objective and subjective sides of individual employment uncertainty on the entry into union.

Methods: We apply event history techniques to longitudinal data taken from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey to examine whether and how objective measures of employment uncertainty (labor market status and contract type) and subjective measures (employment security and employment expectations) are associated with entry into a first union.

Results: Our results show that objective markers of employment uncertainty – unemployment or temporary (casual) jobs – inhibit entry into a union for both men and women. Furthermore, different appraisals of employment uncertainty affect union formation across employment conditions. When individuals face objective employment uncertainty while still expecting their employment situation to improve, either by exiting unemployment (in particular among men) or retaining their jobs (among both sexes), union formation is not necessarily postponed.

Contribution: We stress the importance of considering how different future expectations influence family formation across different levels of objective uncertainty. The sole use of objective markers of employment uncertainty provides only a partial, and possibly inaccurate, perspective on union formation: the specter of the future also matters.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

‘Silver splits’ in Europe: The role of grandchildren and other correlates
Volume 46 - Article 21

Time preferences and fertility: Evidence from Italy
Volume 44 - Article 50

When partners’ disagreement prevents childbearing: A couple-level analysis in Australia
Volume 44 - Article 33

Life after death: Widowhood and volunteering gendered pathways among older adults
Volume 43 - Article 21

Happy parents’ tweets: An exploration of Italian Twitter data using sentiment analysis
Volume 40 - Article 25

Persistent joblessness and fertility intentions
Volume 40 - Article 8

The positive impact of women’s employment on divorce: Context, selection, or anticipation?
Volume 38 - Article 37

Uncertain lives: Insights into the role of job precariousness in union formation in Italy
Volume 35 - Article 10

Religion and union formation in Italy: Catholic precepts, social pressure, and tradition
Volume 31 - Article 35

Towards a new understanding of cohabitation: Insights from focus group research across Europe and Australia
Volume 31 - Article 34

Whose job instability affects the likelihood of becoming a parent in Italy? A tale of two partners
Volume 26 - Article 2

Things change: Women’s and men’s marital disruption dynamics in Italy during a time of social transformations, 1970-2003
Volume 24 - Article 5

Rising marital disruption in Italy and its correlates
Volume 20 - Article 4

Fertility change in Egypt: From second to third birth
Volume 15 - Article 18

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

Women's economic empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence from cross-national population data
Volume 47 - Article 15    | Keywords: agency, Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), economic growth, education, employment, sub-Saharan Africa, women's economic independence

Gender inequality in domestic chores over ten months of the UK COVID-19 pandemic: Heterogeneous adjustments to partners’ changes in working hours
Volume 46 - Article 19    | Keywords: childcare, COVID-19, employment, gender division of child care, gender division of labor, gender inequalities, housework

Internal migration and the de-standardization of the life course: A sequence analysis of reasons for migrating
Volume 46 - Article 12    | Keywords: Australia, Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA), internal migration, life course, sequence analysis

Retraditionalisation? Work patterns of families with children during the pandemic in Italy
Volume 45 - Article 31    | Keywords: breadwinning, couples, COVID-19, employment, families, household employment, Labour Force Survey (LFS), pandemic, women's employment

An age–period–cohort approach to disentangling generational differences in family values and religious beliefs: Understanding the modern Australian family today
Volume 45 - Article 20    | Keywords: age-period-cohort effects, Australia, family, generations, HILDA, religious beliefs, social change, values