The impact of non-standard employment on relationship stability: A comparison of cohabiting unions and marriages

Workforce issues
Thursday 26 July, 1110-1130


Dr Inga Lass
University of Melbourne

Over the past few decades, many Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries have seen a rising importance of non-standard forms of employment — among them fixed-term contracts, temporary agency work, and part-time and casual work. This paper investigates how non-standard employment affects relationship stability among cohabitating unions and marriages in Australia and Germany.

Theory provides contradicting arguments concerning the effects of non-standard employment on relationship stability. On the one hand, non-standard employment often involves specific strains such as job insecurity and mobility requirements, which are expected to reduce relationship quality and stability. On the other hand, part-time and casual work often leave more time for household chores and joint activities with the partner, thereby increasing partnership quality. However, these employment types also increase economic dependency on one partner, which can be contrary to the comparatively egalitarian gender role attitudes of individuals in cohabiting unions.
The research question is explored using discrete-time event history analysis. The data stem from two nationally-representative household panel surveys, the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey and the German Socio-Economic Panel for the period 2001–2015.

The results stress the diversity of effects of non-standard employment on the risk of relationship dissolution: The effect not only varies by the specific employment type, country and gender but also depends on the type of the partnership, with marriages being more resilient to strains from the employment sphere than cohabitating unions.