OBJECTIVE: This study was conducted to compare the job characteristics (work demand, decision latitude, and job insecurity) and psychosocial stress levels of typical workers in the parent firm, to those of atypical workers in subcontracted firms. In addition the risk factors for psychosocial stress of atypical workers are evaluated. METHOD: The study design was cross-sectional, and 1,713 shipbuilding workers (681; typical workers, 1,032; atypical workers) were recruited. A structured-questionnaire was used to assess the general characteristics, job characteristics and psychosocial stress levels. We used the chi-square test for univariate and multiple regression analyses. RESULTS: In univariate analyses, there were significant differences in smoking, hobby, insufficient sleeping, work hours per week, quitting, unemployment, job demand, job decision latitude and job insecurity. The job strain was significantly higher in the atypical workers than in the typical workers. The proportion of iso-strain groups was significantly greater in the atypical workers than typical workers. Using psychosocial stress as the dependent variable, multiple regression models were estimated. After adjustment for sociodemographic factors, unemployment, quitting, employment type, job demand, job decision latitude and job insecurity were all found to be significantly associated with psychosocial stress. CONCLUSION: This result suggests that the psychosocial stress of atypical workers is related to job characteristics such as job insecurity and labor flexibility.