How Good is Your Job? Measuring and Assessing Job Quality

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IZA Policy Seminar

Place: Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 9, 53113 Bonn

Date: 23.09.2015 12:00 - 13:15


Presentation by 

Mark Keese (OECD)


Labour market performance is often measured in terms of quantities: for example, how well countries have succeeded in lowering unemployment or in raising employment rates. However, the OECD argues that this approach is too restrictive and that both the quantity and quality of job opportunities that are created in the labour market matter for assessing labour market performance. Previously, measuring job quality was hampered by the absence of an agreed and tractable way of measuring it. Recent OECD work has overcome this obstacle by putting forward a conceptual framework for measuring job quality that has received substantial consensus and which can be operationalised. In my presentation I will discuss this framework and provide a comparison of job quality across OECD countries. Three broad dimensions of job quality are essential for worker well-being: earnings quality; labour market security; and the quality of the work environment. Using microdata, comparisons of job quality along these three dimensions can be built up across countries as well as by socio-economic groups within countries. A key result is that, at the country level, there does not appear to be a trade-off between achieving high rates of employment while also ensuring that job quality is high. Nevertheless, within countries – even the best-performing ones – there are striking labour market inequalities. In particular, youth, low skilled workers and those with temporary jobs appear to cumulate many disadvantages, while high skilled workers not only have access to more jobs, but also to the best quality jobs. The OECD job quality framework can also be extended to provide a dynamic perspective on changes over time. The fact that some groups in the labour market have poor quality jobs may be less of a public policy concern if this is only a temporary state and quickly leads to better jobs for those workers. However, as I will also show in my presentation, the OECD’s work on earnings mobility shows that a substantial proportion of workers experience persistent spells of poorly-paid jobs interspersed with unemployment. Overall, the large country differences in earnings inequality at a point in time also carry over to inequality in lifetime earnings inequality. My presentation concludes with some implications for policy of these new empirical results on job quality.