Less money, equal profit? How volunteering and (continuing) education compare to paid employment in explaining access to Jahoda?s latent benefits of work
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19th EAWOP Congress
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Purpose: In her seminal work on unemployment and mental health, Jahoda argued that employment fulfills not only financial but also psychosocial needs (need for time structure, activity, social contact, collective purpose, status/identity). Because of its link with material necessity, she felt employment was uniquely positioned to provide access to these ?latent? benefits ? unlike unpaid work such as volunteering. The current study examined this claim.
Method: In a two-wave online study following 400 German participants over the course of a year, we explored the relationship between employment, volunteer work, participation in (continuing) education, and access to the latent benefits of work.
Results: We found that both hours spent volunteering and hours spent in paid employment (but not education) showed incremental validity in predicting access to the latent benefits at T1. Paid employment predicted access to every latent benefit; the effect of volunteering was limited to collective purpose, social contact and status.
Limitations: No longitudinal effects could be shown, possibly owing to low variation in employment/volunteer status over time.
Implications: Jahoda may have underestimated the impact of unpaid forms of work; nevertheless, our results do not contradict a unique relevance of paid employment to the latent benefits.
Conclusion: As job insecurity rises and technology reduces direct social interaction at work while increasing flexibility, employment?s ability to fulfill all the psychosocial needs named by Jahoda is likely to decrease. Exploring the effectiveness of additional routes to mental health seems both worthwhile and timely.