Purpose – The recent economic crisis gave rise to job insecurity and had a seemingly greater effect on western than eastern countries. The purpose of this paper is to examine cross-cultural differences of the influence of job insecurity on employees’ wellbeing, innovative work behaviour (IWB) and safety outcomes in the form of attention-related cognitive errors (ARCES) in Germany as compared to mainland China. Design/methodology/approach – Samples from both Germany and China rate their job insecurity, work engagement, burnout, IWB and ARCES in a survey. Findings – For both German and Chinese employees there was an indirect relationship between job insecurity and ARCES through burnout. In the German sample, there was an indirect relationship between employees’ job insecurity and IWB through work engagement. In contrast, the Chinese sample only showed the direct relationship between quantitative job insecurity and IWB, but not a mediation effect. Practical implications – For organizations to be effective and their employees to work safely, it is essential to understand the nature and process of job insecurity in different national contexts. Originality/value – The present research is unique by relating job insecurity to employee’ innovation on the one hand and safety outcomes on the other. Furthermore, these relationships are examined in the cultural contexts of Germany and China, contributing to the gap of research carried out in eastern contexts.