Proactivity for Job Security

Helping people at the bottom of the labor market to deal better with job insecurity

Job insecurity means that people are concerned about the survival of their job or career. Developments such as flexibilisation and digitization are increasing this concern, especially at the lower end of the labor market. This causes stress for employees. In addition, it comes at the expense of their focus on “proactive career behavior”: gaining new skills, building a network and planning their careers.

The lack of attention to proactive career behavior will only increase the insecurity of people at the bottom of the labor market. In order to break this downward spiral, the Proactivity for Job Security project is investigating ways in which these people can experience more security in their careers.

The idea behind this research is that many developments in the labor market, such as the steady decrease in the number of permanent contracts, cannot be stopped. Can the effect of these developments on the experience of uncertainty therefore be influenced? To answer this question, the researchers in the project look at the interplay between uncertainty and proactive career behavior.

“We investigate the action-response mechanism of behavior and uncertainty: does the way people deal with developments in the labor market determine the feeling of insecurity, or does the feeling of uncertainty determine how people deal with these developments?”

– Jessie Koen, Assistant Professor at the University of Amsterdam.


Insight into this question can ensure that the negative spiral of uncertainty at the bottom of the labor market can be broken. In addition, the project explores two concrete ways to break and prevent the spiral of uncertainty. The first way is to provide security about income, apart from security about work. The assumption is that this will lead people to take more proactive long-term actions, such as taking a course to acquire new skills.

The second way is to make proactive career behavior as accessible as possible. To this end, the researchers are developing an app on the mobile phone that challenges low-skilled people by means of small, daily assignments (“nudging”) to take steps to improve their network, for example.

The researchers find it important that the results of their research are widely shared. As part of this project, they are therefore setting up an expertise center where different sources of information about job insecurity are bundled.

dr. Jessie Koen Professor at the University of Amsterdam