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2 nd AUSTRALASIAN HOUSING RESEARCHERS’ CONFERENCE BRISBANE, JUNE 2007. Facing the challenge of redundancy in the automotive industry – ontological security and the meaning of home Hans Pieters PhD Candidate Flinders University.  Overview. Background Theory/literature:

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2 nd australasian housing researchers conference brisbane june 2007


Facing the challenge of redundancy in the automotive industry – ontological security and the meaning of home

Hans Pieters

PhD Candidate

Flinders University



  • Background
  • Theory/literature:
    • Ontological security (OS)
    • Applications of OS
    • OS and home
    • Home/work;
    • Should experience of redundancy threaten OS ?
  • Research questions for this paper
  • Data – coping with redundancy
  • Data - meaning of home/meaning of work/OS
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Paper informed by draft PhD thesis research proposal
  • Thesis working title – “what psycho-social benefits of home are important in coping with redundancy” – uses redundancies from Mitsubishi motors Australia ltd (MMAL) Adelaide as case study
  • Accessing data from flinders Uni research team (beer et 2006) exploring impact of redundancies at MMAL – ARC grant; 700 involuntary and 400 voluntary redundancies announced may 2004
  • Research team used qualitative and quantitative data from surveys and in depth interviews; And comparison data; First survey conducted during march – Nov 2005; First in depth interviews (stage 1) Nov 2005 – Feb 2006
theory ontological security os
Theory: Ontological Security (OS)
  • Term coined by psychiatrist R.D. Laing
  • Giddens (1991) defined OS as:

“The confidence that most human beings have in the continuity of their self identity and in the constancy of their social and material environments. Basic to a feeling of ontological security is a sense of the reliability of persons and things”

    • Giddens suggests that we all work to maintain framework of OS in everyday life
    • Concept of OS important component of his theorization of modernity – in which he posits shift from politics of emancipation to life politics
    • Actors engage in “ reflexive narratives of the self” achieving the ontological security of biographical re-ordering


ontological security cont
Ontological security (cont)
    • Giddens suggests routines and trust are essential for OS
  • Put simply, OS is people having confidence in the social order, their place in society, right to be themselves and achievement of self-realisation (Hiscock & et al, 2001)
  • OS is enhanced through feelings of protection, autonomy and prestige (Hickcock et al, 2001)
examples of theoretical and research applications of os
Examples of theoretical and research applications of OS
  • Macro-sociological (Turner, 2001)
  • Human resource management (Brown, 2000)
  • Place attachment (Lunds University, Sweden)
  • Adult education.(Shyu, 2002)
  • Addiction recovery (Vigilant, 2005)
  • Homelessness (Padgett, 2006)
what does o s have to do with home
What does O/S have to do with home ?
  • Saunders (1990) has shown that home could be a source of OS because home is
  • “Where people feel in control of their environment, free from surveillance, free to be themselves and at ease, in the deepest psychological sense, in a world that might at times be experienced as threatening and uncontrollable (p. 361).
  • OS is maintained when home is a site of constancy in the social and material environment, a spatial context for day to day routines, a site free from surveillance and a secure base for identity construction; meaning of home was context specific (Dupuis & Thorns, 1998)
what does os have to do with home cont
What does OS have to do with home? (cont)
  • Hiscock & et al, (2001) found tenure difference in gaining OS from the home, but suggested OS was more to do with having wealth, living in nice area, living in a larger and better quality dwelling and being settled in relationships and at work - OS derives in part from avoidance of risk and the appearance of failure
  • Tenure less important than neighbourhood context for deriving benefits of haven, autonomy and status.(Kearns & et al, 2000)
what does os have to do with home cont1
What does OS have to do with home? (cont)

(Source: Kearns et al, 2000)

what does home have to do with work
What does home have to do with work ?
  • Separation of home and the workplace - resulting in a view of home as a sanctuary to escape from the workplace, a source of domestic privacy and a status symbol (Shorter 1977).
  • Feminist and other scholarship leading to an appreciation of the interdependencies between the two realms and the essentially gendered nature of the earlier construction (Hanson & Pratt, 1988)
  • “A reconceptualized "home" would recognize the neighborhood as the locus of a set of potential jobs, social networks, and services that bear critically upon the household's work decisions in the ways we have just outlined. (Hanson and Pratt, 1988: 309).
what does home have to do with work cont
What does home have to do with work? (cont)
  • The experience of home and its construction changes at times of climactic events such as unemployment and marriage (Gurney, 1997; Sixsmith & Sixsmith, 1991)
  • Management of boundary between home and work (Nippert - Eng, 1996)
  • Work/family balance proposition that work is increasingly providing the rewards of home and home is becoming the place with too much to do in too little time (Hochschild, 1997)
should experience of redundancy threaten os
Should experience of redundancy threaten OS ?
  • Retrenchment is stressful life event –whether voluntary or involuntary ( Leana and Feldman, 1994:10)
  • Job loss impacts daily routines, social patterns, family relationships, self esteem, psychological health, physiological health, marriage, finance (Applebaum et al 2003)
  • Some groups are more vulnerable to repeat retrenchments – eg blue collar workers (Kinicki & Latack, 1990)
  • Previous experience of retrenchment is not necessarily inoculation against current negative impacts (Kinicki & Latack, 1990)
  • Even if workers perceive little choice in taking voluntary redundancy – psychologically there is greater control with voluntary redundancies (Clarke, 2007) (cont)
should experience of redundancy threaten os1
Should experience of redundancy threaten OS ?
  • There are different styles of coping with job loss – proactive/control versus escape and avoidance (Kinicki & Latack, 1990)
  • Redundancy can be a resolution to years of uncertainty surrounding employment status
  • In some cases, especially auto industry, management strategy encourages strong worker identification with company eg ‘shared destiny’(Delbridge, 1998) or corporate – worker - community integration (Perrucci & Stohl, 1997); makes it harder for some people to accept leaving company ?
  • Retrenchment decision may be perceived as a breach of the “psychological contract” – the implicit employment contract - employees' perceptions of what they owe to their employers and what their employers owe to them (Robinson, 1996) - leading to generalised loss of trust for some people ?
research questions for this paper
Research questions for this paper
  • What was the experience of workers coping with redundancy ?
  • Was their ontological security maintained through meanings attached to home ?
data coping with redundancy

Employment Status

Per cent of Respondents

Self Employed


Working Full-time for Pay


Working Part-time for Pay


Unemployed, Looking for Work




Full-time Student


Household Duties, Not Looking for Work


Not Working Because of a Disability




No. of Respondents (count)


Data - coping with redundancy

Table : 2 Employment Status at Stage 1 Survey (of those who have left the company)

 (Source: Beer et al, 2006)

data coping with redundancy1


Number of Respondents

Fewer social activities

153(31 due to financial pressures; 14 had moved house)

New life/job positive effect


New job/life negative effect


No change


Data - coping with redundancy

Table 3: Effect on Social Activities (Open-ended Responses, Stage 1)

(Source: Beer et al, 2006)

data coping with redundancy2


Number of Respondents

Positive effects

More time with family


Other positive effects


Negative effects



Financial stress


Less time


Marital breakdown


Data - coping with redundancy

Table 4 : Effect on family (open ended questions – Stage 1

(Source: Beer et al, 2006)

data coping with redundancy3

Since the Last Interview Have You Kept in Contact with Former Mitsubishi Workers?



Valid Percent















Data - coping with redundancy

Table 5: Contact with former MMAL workers at Stage 2

data coping with redundancy4
Data: coping with redundancy
  • Evidence from qualitative interviews paints of a picture of what leaving the company might have meant (Asked – what role did working at MMAL play in your life ?; In depth interviews, Stage 1))
    • - Some respondents strongly identified with and demonstrated loyalty to the company, as indicated by the following comments:
    • “I still feel affiliated with them”
    • “I still think of myself as part of Mitsubishi even though I am not there”
    • “I actually still do talk about it as though I am still there”
    • “It was my life, my bread, my butter – everything that I have is because of Mitsubishi”


Words used by respondents in Mitsubishi in depth interview (Stage 1)

Data: Discourses of home and sources of OS through home as haven, autonomy and status


Family, Children, Safety, We are very secure here

Back region


Privacy, Come back to, Go home to, Haven


Lonely, Stopping off point, Don’t like being in this home,

Two dogs were killed due to street traffic


Relax, Take it easy, Unwind


Something your comfortable with; Comfortable


Feel safe


This is your home, We have the house build, Somewhere that was our own, its mine, Its all paid, All of the mortgage is paid


Because I do the garden, Its just ours, everything is ours;

Make changes that suit yourself,



When I want to, Where I want to; Shut the door, The world stays outside, Do my own thing



No problems with neighbours, Invite over friends,

Will never leave the area, Never move to out of South,

Area is good

What you make it

What you make of it


Hub, base, in the middle,

Table 6

Source: data from Beer et al (2006); conceptualization based on Gurney (1996), and Kearns et al (2000)

  • Variety of meanings attached to home by workers
  • Ontological security appears to be sourced through home as haven, autonomy and status
  • The experience of redundancy, voluntary or involuntary, is likely to be a threat to ontological security, through its disruptive effects on routines, social relationships, status, self esteem – perhaps also trust
  • More detailed analysis of qualitative and quantitative data could lead to greater understanding of meaning of home for adjustment to redundancy
  • Beer, A., Baum, F., Thomas, H., & al, e. (2006). An evaluation of the retrenchments at Mitsubishi Motors Aust Ltd
  • Flinders University.
  • Brown, W. (2000). Ontological security, existential anxiety and workplace privacy. Journal of Business Ethics, 23, 61-65.
  • Clarke, M. (2007). Choices and constraints:individual perceptions of the voluntary redundancy experience. Human Resource Management Journal, 17(1), 76-93.
  • Delbridge, R. (1998). Life on the Line in Contemporary Manufacturing - The Workplace Experience of Lean Production and the "Japanese" Model. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Dupuis, A., & Thorns, D. (1998). Home, Home Ownership and the Search for Ontological Security. The Sociological Review, 46(1), 24-47.
  • Gurney, C. (1996). Meanings of home and homeownership: Myths, histories and experiences. Bristol; Library, Special Collections, Bristol.
  • Gurney, C. (1997). "..half of me was satisfied:" making sense of home through episodic ethnographies. Women's Studies International Forum, 20(3), 373-386.
  • Hanson, S., & Pratt, G. (1988). Reconceptualising the links between home and work in urban geography. Economic Geography, 64(4), 299-321.
  • Hiscock, R., & et al. (2001). Ontological security and psychological benefits from the home:qualitative evidence on issues of tenure. Housing, theory and society(18), 50-66.
  • Hochschild, A. (1997). The Time Bind: When home becomes work and work becomes home.
  • Kearns, A., & et al. (2000). "Beyond four walls" The psycho-social benefits of home: evidence from West Central Scotland. Housing Studies, 15(3), 409.
  • Kinicki, L., & Latack, J. (1990). Explication of the construct of coping with involuntary job loss. Journal of Vocational Behaviour, 36, 339-360.
  • Lunds University, & Sweden. Existential crisis and place security: the power of place in the context of pregnancy. Retrieved 13 June, 2007, from http://www.keg.lu.se/eng/html/fp.aspx?id=35&lang=eng
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  • Robinson, S (1996) Trust and Breach of the Psychological Contract; Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 41, 1996
  • Saunders, P. (1990). A nation of home owners. London: Unwin Hyman.
  • Shorter , E. (1977). The making of the modern family. London: Fontana.
  • Shyu, M. (2002). The Essential Conditions for Reflective Learning Based on “Ontological Security” Bulletin of Adult and Continuing Education, No. 31 , , 185 - 206.
  • Sixsmith, A. J., & Sixsmith, J. A. (1991). Transitions in home experience in later life. The journal of architectural and planning research, 8(3 ), 181-191.
  • Turner, B. (2001). The erosion of citizenship. British Journal of Sociology, 22(2), 189-209.
  • Vigilant, L. (2005). " I dont have another run left with it" Ontological security in illness narratives of recovering on methadone maintenance. Deviant Behaviour, 26(5), 399-416.