Economic anxiety, also referred to as economic insecurity, is the state of concern about the future of one's economic prospects. Economic anxiety can increase due to loss of household income or decreased purchasing power, causing affected individuals to self-report having more issues with societal structure and a lower quality of life. Anxiety occurs when the idea of a situation is regarded as highly threatening, unpleasant and doubtful, motivating individuals to stay away from insecurity by creating an environment that is safe in order to protect themselves and their families from threatening groups and events (Jarymowicz & Bar-Tal, 2006; Nabi, 1999; Roseman & Evdokas, 2004).
Events in the life of an individual such as unemployment, divorce, or a serious illness can also trigger decreased income, and by result, economic anxiety. Research has shown that high levels of economic insecurity exist among low-income households, and that economic anxiety has a positive correlation with growing economic inequality in the United States. This was due to larger family instability and volatility in income in the United States in the 2000s as compared to 1960s. Economic insecurity could originate from the perception one holds towards social stratification (which inspects risks of job loss, distribution of income and downward mobility) and changes in their economic status. Furthermore, single-parent families are more vulnerable to losing jobs than two-parent families because it takes time to digest and absorb the shock of uncertainty (Western et al. 2008). Moreover, economic insecurity is associated with suicide/ suicidal thoughts, heart diseases, psychological disorders and physiological illness and the reason why this could be triggered could be because of economic policies.
In 1992, the central government in China launched a drive to "smash the three irons" - the iron rice bowl, the iron wage and the iron armchair which symbolize jobs for life, fixed wages and guaranteed positions for industrial bureaucrats. The consequences, in a workforce conditioned by 40 years of traditional socialist ideology and with only primitive state welfare protection were alarming for many. The slogan was quietly withdrawn, but the policy of structural adjustment of employment continues.
[Industrialized countries] As a results of a more aggressive global economic situation combined with recession, the social contract between employer and employee is much weakened. There was a time in industrialized societies when a job, blue collar or white, public or private, normally meant a stable occupation or career. A loyal employee could expect to remain too. Even in highly cyclical industries, most workers who were occasionally laid off would be recalled when orders picked up. With steady careers came fringe benefits, notably health car and pensions. Today few have reliable job security, not IBM engineers, not civil servants, not bankers, not tenured college professors, not unionized factory workers. The white-collar share of unemployment in this recession in the USA is about 40%, nearly doubt that of the downturns of 1973 and 1982. Unlike in a typical recession, a majority of worker being laid off will not be rehired for their old jobs. Beyond unemployment rates, one of the most telling indicators of rising insecurity is declining pension and health insurance benefits.