3 questions to… Pascale Lengagne and Christine Le Clainche following the publication of the Working Paper (78), May 2019: "The Effects of Mass Layoffs on Mental Health".
Job losses, which have intensified in France particularly after the 2007-2008 financial and economic crisis, affect a significant number of employees. These job losses will most likely be extended in the future to an ever wider range of sectors and categories of employees - unskilled and qualified - as a result of technological innovations. A large number of research studies from the international literature highlight the negative impact of job losses on the future of laid-off employees and their professional careers. However, this question is still insufficiently studied in the French case, as is the influence of mass layoffs on employees remaining in plants after layoffs.
Our research highlights significant effects of mass layoffs on the mental health of employees remaining in the company after layoffs, in the French context. It also offers a new perspective on the effects of job losses on mental health, as it is based on the consumption of medically prescribed drugs identified from health insurance data, as a mental health indicator.
Our results indicate a sharp increase in the psychotropic drug consumption by employees who remain in the company after being exposed to mass layoffs implemented by the company: among these employees, the rate of psychotropic drug consumption increases by 41% following layoffs compared to the period preceding them. The results also highlight a social gradient according to which employees belonging to the lowest socio-economic groups are more affected by mental health problems leading them to take psychotropic drugs, in a context of mass layoffs, compared to the highest socio-economic groups.
Our results show that, for employees, the experience of a mass layoff plan in the company that employs them causes great anxiety and leads to the consumption of psychotropic drugs prescribed by their doctor. In terms of employment policy, this research highlights the need to implement strong measures to support employees exposed to mass layoffs, including when they remain in employment, and psychological follow-up, in particular by targeting populations of employees belonging to the lowest socio-economic groups. These measures should also prevent the negative health effects of layoffs and thus avoid, as far as possible, psychotropic drug consumption which has significant undesirable effects, such as the risk of addiction and increased cognitive difficulties, particularly in the long term.
Interview by Anna Marek