Job Quality and the European Working Conditions Survey

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IZA Policy Seminar

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

Date: 01.03.2016 12:00 - 13:15


Presentation by 

Erika Mezger (Eurofound - European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions)


Better job quality and working conditions are seen as preconditions for achieving the employment objective set by Europe's growth strategy, Europe 2020 (75% employment participation by 2020). Policy makers need to know how working conditions are developing and whether job quality in Europe is improving or declining. Eurofound has carried out research on job quality for many years and, in 2002, developed an analytical framework on quality of work and employment. This framework has been influential in the development of Eurofoundís longest-established survey, the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS), first carried out in 1990. Following the 5th wave of the EWCS in 2010, Eurofound developed a set of indices that measure job quality. We assess job quality at the level of the job held, independent in principle of both the personal circumstances of the worker holding it and of the wider labour market setting. Only those characteristics of work and employment that have a proven causal relationship with well-being, be it positive or negative, are included in the measurement. The four indices of job quality are 1. earnings; 2. working time quality (which includes duration, scheduling, discretion over working time and short-term flexibility); 3. prospects (which includes job security, career progression and contract quality); 4. intrinsic job quality (including skills and discretion, good social environment, good physical environment and work intensity). These indices draw on the four dimensions of job quality introduced in the original 2002 analytical framework, but combine the elements of these dimensions differently. When jobs are clustered according to the four indices, results show that 20% of jobs in Europe are low-quality jobs, which share features that pose a risk to the health and well-being of job-holders. More than half of jobs fall into two categories: high-paid good jobs and well-balanced good jobs. The rest (almost 30%) are poorly balanced jobs, characterised by low intrinsic job quality and prospects, and very low working time quality - but relatively high levels of earnings. A full analysis of 2015 data from the 6th wave of the EWCS according to the four job quality indices is currently being conducted. First results of descriptive analysis will be part of the presentation. Job quality is an important factor for making work sustainable by creating working conditions that allow more people to participate and stay in employment longer. But other factors going beyond the characteristics of the job and related to the characteristics and circumstances of the worker are also important (like care responsibilities, personal health, skills and employability etc.) as well as company/ organisational settings in which work is being performed. Is it possible to integrate these factors and enlarge our index? Eurofound will explore this from 2017 onwards.