Job loss leads to years of distrust, says study

10 March 2015

 

People who lose their jobs are less willing to trust others for up to a decade after being laid-off, according to new research from the University of Manchester.

Social scientist Dr. James Laurence has found that following redundancy, trust can be so badly damaged that even finding new work does not overcome the problem.

Information for this research was drawn from 6,840 members of the British National Child Development Study, who were born in the same week in 1958.

Dr. Laurence looked at interview responses collected in 1991, when participants were 33-years-old, and in 2008, when they were 50. He also noted whether participants lost their jobs during the years in-between.

At age 50, the probability of expressing trust was 4.5 per cent lower amongst those who had been made redundant over the previous 17 years than those who had not. That figure rose to 7 per cent among those who saw work as a key part of their identity and sense of self.

Dr. Laurence also found that being made redundant makes people mistrustful of others for at least nine years afterwards, and that this can continue even when they find a new job.

Society is still recovering from one of the longest recessions in living memory, and the resulting large-scale job losses could lead to a worrying level of long-term distrust among the British public.

Dr. Laurence, an Economic and Social Research Council Future Research Leaders Fellow, said: “People’s willingness to trust others tends to remain largely stable over their lifetime. However, this work shows that trauma like redundancy can shift people’s outlook of the world and this change persists long after the experience occurred.

“Even a single experience of redundancy can lead to depressed trust and what is particularly concerning is that people reported less willingness to trust others even after they got another job… This has important implications not just for the person involved but for society as a whole as trust can have significant benefits, from health and happiness, to social cohesion, efficient democratic governance and economic development.”

Read the full paper

Dr Laurence’s paper will be published in the March 2015 issue of Social Science Research.