Quality in work and employment — Lithuania
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The issue of quality in work and employment is insufficiently addressed in Lithuania: this refers both to the social partners and public authorities. Information on various issues relating to the quality in work and employment is not collected, analysed and summarised on a systematic basis in Lithuania.
1. The importance of quality in work and employment
In general, the issue of quality in work and employment is insufficiently addressed in Lithuania. Over the last 15 years, when the national economy was functioning under conditions of excessive labour supply, national economic policy was concentrated on the promotion of business development and employment policy – on the increased employment levels of different population groups. The unemployed, not employed individuals were of the greatest concern for policy makers in Lithuania.
There is no (at least – clearly visible) concern about a possible conflict between job creation and the pursuit of quality in work in Lithuanian as well. It’s worth noting however that, according to expert evaluations, many recently created new jobs are of low quality in Lithuania (for example, in construction, hotel and restaurant and retail trade sectors).
Basic issues debated by the social partners – employers and employees’ representatives – both at the enterprise and national levels, include wages, work and rest time and – more rarely – safety and health of employees at work. Unfortunately, such problem areas as career opportunities, or (other than time) work-life balance related issues, have tended to be neglected.
The social partners at the Tripartite Council of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos Trišalė taryba, LRTT) periodically discuss the issue of the minimum wage increase as well as wage taxation issues. Social partners have signed a bipartite agreement regarding implementation of the application of ‘The Methodology for the Assessment of Jobs and Positions’ in enterprises and organisations, etc. (The Methodology is a set of instruments allowing to determine tariffs and wage rates in an enterprise/sector using unified principles/criterions).For the time being, the social partners debate on the working time related issues. On September 2006, the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists (Lietuvos pramonininkų konfederacija, LPK) proposed a motion to the Government of the Republic of Lithuania (Lietuvos Respublikos Vyriausybė, LRV) to extend the maximum allowable working time in Lithuania up to 60 hours per week (currently maximum working time, including overtime, must not exceed 48 hours per 7 working days). According to employers, this would help, at least to a certain extent, to deal with the problem of shortage of employees in the country. Though the LRV looked at this proposal of the industrialists quite positively, trade unions set their faces against this initiative (they called and are still threatening protest actions, etc.).
As the shortage of labour force (skilled in particular) has been recently more and more evident in the country, issues relating to employees’ qualifications and skills development are more and more often addressed by the social partners. This summer, drafting of the Law on Vocational Training was accomplished and the draft was presented at the LRTT. After prolonged debating, the social partners supported the law on September, 2006.
It’s worth mentioning that in Lithuania, in essence, information on many aspects of the quality of employment (job satisfaction, career opportunities and perspectives, impact of work place and relations at work on physical and mental health and life quality of the employed) is not systematically collected, analysed and summarised. Without sufficient information on the mentioned issues, the scope of the problems faced in the country could be assessed only approximately.
2. Career and employment security
The concept of ‘flexicurity’ has not yet entered the national debate on employment and social policies between politicians, trade unions, employers, press and other stakeholders in Lithuania.
In 2004, there was a research carried out by the order of the ILO in Lithuania on ‘Flexibility and security in the labour market. Lithuania’s experience’. Main findings of the research were presented and discussed with the social partners at a tripartite seminar held in Vilnius. Unfortunately, this was the only public meeting, where the situation on the Lithuanian labour market in the context of flexicurity was discussed by the representatives of employers and employees together with scientists and representatives from the Government.
The concept of ‘flexicurity’ is not mentioned in the National Lisbon Strategy Implementation Programme or any other LRV documents, strategies or programmes; the issue is not mentioned in the Lithuanian employment policy, either. Yet, it should be noted that many changes currently observed in the Lithuanian employment and social policy are, to a certain extent, in line with the main principles of flexicurity:
though making very small steps, labour legislation (due mainly to employers’ persistence) is gradually liberalising;
social partnering projects financed from the structural funds and intended for the development of the social dialogue in the country are expected to bring about positive results in the area of social dialogue;
rapid growth of earnings and the Law on Unemployment Social Insurance (effective since 1 January 2005; before adaptation of the Law unemployment benefits were not related to previous income of unemployed and on average were very low) significantly increased income security (inter alia, in case of unemployment too);
the strategy of lifelong learning and its implementation plan, approved in 2004, already started bringing positive results;
ALMP are developed on a regular basis, including increasing their variety and attractiveness for employers and unemployed individuals; benefits to individuals participating in the ALMP measures have considerably increased.
The nature of the employment contract is far from being a central issue of the debates of the social partners in Lithuania. In this context, a situation in Lithuania is extremely atypical in that part-time employment as well as temporary employment shares are not only at low levels compared to other EU Member States, but they have been steadily decreasing since 2003. As mentioned before, such a situation is determined by the shortage of labour force in the country, in its turn conditioned by rapid economic growth and significant migration flows from the country.
3. Health and well being
As mentioned in section 1, in Lithuania there is no sufficiently consistent and systemised information on safety and health at work (except for information on accidents at work and occupational diseases), inter alia, on work related disorders. Seeing that the deficit of labour force has been prevailing in Lithuania (since 2004) and available employees have been used ‘to full capacity’, we may assume that such indicators as ‘working at very high speed’, ‘working to tight deadlines’ and similar will steadily increase in Lithuania. Furthermore, seeing that Lithuania still falls within a group of lower developed countries lacking sufficient resources to ensure satisfactory work conditions, the share of employees facing various negative physical and chemical factors at work (vibrations, noise, high/low temperatures, dust, etc.) should be quite big in Lithuania.
These indicators should raise particular concern in the light of rapid ageing of Lithuanian employees – with the processes of overall ageing of the population and emigration of mainly younger individuals, involvement of elderly population in the labour market is increasing rapidly in Lithuania: in 2001-2005, the employment level of individuals aged 55-59 increased by 8.8 percentage points, 60-64 – by 11.9 percentage points.
Unfortunately, employees’ health and well being is understood in quite a narrow sense in Lithuania. Both the social partners and public authorities, when addressing employees’ safety and health at work, mainly confine their attention to accidents at work and occupational diseases as well as different negative physical factors persisting at the workplace. In Lithuania, there is the Commission for Employees Safety and Health formed and actively operating at the LRT. At this commission, representatives of employers, employees and the Government regularly debate on and discuss various issues related to employees’ health and safety. Topics most often discussed by the commission are as follows:
accidents at work;
negative physical and chemical factors (noise, vibrations, dust, various chemicals, etc.) and potentially dangerous equipment at work;
employees’ safety and health state in various economic activities of increased risk (construction, motor transport, etc.);
other problems relating to deviance from normal work conditions.
4. Skills development
The need for life-long learning as well as overall improvement of employees skills necessary for Lithuanian labour market has been accepted by the government, social partners and the public at large in Lithuania, however the levels as well as quality of life-long learning remains at rather low levels.
Over recent years, employment in agriculture has been decreasing in Lithuania (though remains still quite high: in 2005, 14% of Lithuanian employees were working in agriculture and related activities), while levels of employment in industry has remained nearly unchanged. Over the same period, employment in the service sector has been growing at the fastest pace, but mainly on account of employment growth in sectors using lower skilled labour force (construction, wholesale and retail trade, hotels and restaurants).
As mentioned, the shortage of labour force has been prevalent in Lithuania for a number of recent years, but this has to do not only with ‘the fact that demand for manual skills is falling, and demand for non-manual skills is rising’. Even on the contrary, the system of vocational training in Lithuania is characterised as the ‘upside-down’ pyramid – 80% of current students are studying at universities and colleges providing higher education and only 20% are studying at vocational schools and professional colleges. Accordingly, employers usually face a greater shortage of qualified manual workforce than of the non-manual kind.
At this point we should note the fact that Lithuania also falls among the countries where the level of life-long learning is one of the lowest. Therefore, both primary and continuous vocational training levels and quality thereof are insufficient in the country.
That’s why the skills development issue more and more often becomes the focus of debates for the Government, social partners and public at large. In order to improve the existing situation, as mentioned in Chapter 1, the draft Law on Vocational Training was finalised in 2006 in co-operation with all stakeholders. The central purpose of this law is to implement vocational training reform with a view to matching qualifications to labour market needs. This law also provides for many new functions for the social partners. For example, according to the draft, the social partners shall:
participate in the formation of the vocational training policy;
initiate elaboration of new qualification, professional standards, vocational training programmes, share in the composition of their contents;
participate in the evaluation of vocational training programmes by their compliance with the economic needs;
share in the planning of enrolments to state-funded programmes;
share in vocational guidance performance;
share in the organisation of practical vocational training, etc.
5. Work life balance
With the deficit of labour force and relatively low wage level in Lithuania, both employers and employees themselves are interested in ‘abundant and prolonged’ work. That’s why people do work long hours in Lithuania (though this is not always reflected in official statistics where overtime can be partially accounted for; according to special overtime survey, performed by Lithuanian Statistics in 2004, employers often even not pay for overtime).
The second feature specific to Lithuanian employment is insufficient usage of flexible forms of employment. This situation is conditioned by both – objective reasons (low wages), and subjective reasons (insufficient administrative and organisational capacities necessary in order to organise this type of employment). As illustrated by enterprise polling within the framework of project ‘Attractive workplace for all’, carried out on behalf of the European Foundation for Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Lithuanian enterprises are not applying the practice of flexible working time as a corporate policy aimed at helping employees to balance the demands of family, health and work. Flexible working time (if used) in most cases is for a privilege reserved for top-level professionals and managers when the very nature of their work requires flexible working time. Ordinary workers and experts are normally required to adhere strictly to standard working times. Therefore, in Lithuanian reality flexible working time is often understood rather as a certain privilege than legitimate procedure. Even more, ‘Lithuanian flexibility’ usually means extra work – overtime, work in the evenings, on rest days and legal holidays.
Without widespread application of flexible forms of employment in Lithuania, employees (and first of all – women employees) have insufficient conditions to accommodate family and working life. This especially hinders women with children from inclusion / reintegration in the labour market after prolonged breaks.
Though working time issues are often debated by the social partners (particularly, at the national level), the aspect of work life balance is not emphasised in these debates and this problem is basically not raised at all among the social partners in Lithuania. Speaking about working time, employers usually limite themselves to mentioning poor working efficiency of Lithuanian employees and trade unions – to poor wages paid to employees. Though employers often raise a question over insufficient labour force in Lithuania, opportunities to attract currently inactive population to the labour market primarily by virtue of application of flexible employment forms are not discussed in this context.
In Lithuania, the structural funds have been recently used to fund several projects intended for better accommodation of work and family life; some of them were presented at the LRTT. This way, the existing problem and some possible solutions were at least introduced to the social partners.
Annex – Country data
|Place of work and work organisation||EU27||LT|
|q11f. Working at company/organisation premises||72.8||75.8|
|q11g. Teleworking from home||8.3||7.8|
|q11j. Dealing directly with people who are not employees (e.g. customers)||62.4||63.2|
|q11k. Working with computers||45.5||34.6|
|q11l. Using internet/email for work||36.0||31.7|
|q20a_a. Short repetitive tasks of <1m||24.7||31.7|
|q20a_b. Short repetitive tasks of <10m||39.0||46.1|
|q20b_a. Working at very high speed||59.6||48.9|
|q20b_b. Working to tight deadlines||61.8||57.8|
|q21a. Pace of work dependent on colleagues||42.2||50.5|
|q21b. Pace of work dependent on direct demands from customers, etc.||68.0||55.5|
|q21c. Pace of work dependent on numerical production/performance targets||42.1||34.1|
|q21d. Pace of work dependent on automated equipment/machine||18.8||22.3|
|q21e. Pace of work dependent on boss||35.7||44.6|
|q22a. Have to interrupt a task in order to take on an unforeseen task||32.7||24.5|
|q24a. Can choose/change order of tasks||63.4||57.2|
|q24b. Can choose/change methods of work||66.9||68.3|
|q24c. Can choose/change speed of work||69.2||82.8|
|q25a. Can get assistance from colleagues if asked||67.6||68.4|
|q25b. Can get assistance from superiors/boss if asked||56.1||61.5|
|q25c. Can get external assistance if asked||31.6||44.9|
|q25d. Has influence over choice of working partners||24.2||21.4|
|q25e. Can take break when wishes||44.6||33.4|
|q25f. Has enough time to get the job done||69.6||77.6|
|q26a. Task rotation||43.7||34.7|
|q31. Immediate boss is a woman||24.5||34.1|
|Job content and training|
|q23a. Meeting precise quality standards||74.2||58.6|
|q23b. Assessing quality of own work||71.8||73.6|
|q23c. Solving unforeseen problems||80.8||68.7|
|q23d. Monotonous tasks||42.9||52.8|
|q23e. Complex tasks||59.4||58.5|
|q23f. Learning new things||69.1||56.6|
|q25j. Able to apply own ideas in work||58.4||46.0|
|q27. Job-skills match: need more training||13.1||21.8|
|q27. Job-skills match: correspond well||52.3||54.4|
|q27. Job-skills match: could cope with more demanding duties||34.6||23.8|
|q28a1. Has undergone paid-for training in previous 12 months||26.1||22.7|
|Violence, harrassment and discrimination|
|q29a. Threats of physical violence||6.0||4.7|
|q29b. Physical violence from colleagues||1.8||1.0|
|q29c. Physical violence from other people||4.3||2.7|
|q29f. Unwanted sexual attention||1.8||2.8|
|q29g. Age discrimination||2.7||4.9|
|Physical work factors|
|q10c. High temperatures||24.9||17.7|
|q10d. Low temperatures||22.0||30.6|
|q10e. Breathing in smoke, fumes, powder or dust, etc.||19.1||26.3|
|q10f. Breathing in vapours such as solvents and thinners||11.2||17.5|
|q10g. Handling chemical substances||14.5||19.9|
|q10i. Tobacco smoke from other people||20.1||27.5|
|q10j. Infectious materials||9.2||13.1|
|q11a. Tiring or painful positions||45.5||47.2|
|q11b. Lifting or moving people||8.1||5.9|
|q11c. Carrying or moving heavy loads||35.0||41.9|
|q11d. Standing or walking||72.9||80.4|
|q11e. Repetitive hand or arm movements||62.3||69.3|
|q11m. Wearing personal protective clothing or equipment||34.0||39.3|
|Information and communication|
|q30b. Consulted about changes in work organisation, etc.||47.1||79.3|
|q30c. Subject to regular formal assessment of performance||40.0||64.9|
|q12. Well-informed about health and safety risks||83.1||85.6|
|q32. Consider health or safety at risk because of work||28.6||43.4|
|q33. Work affects health||35.4||52.4|
|q33a_a… hearing problems||7.2||11.6|
|q33a_b... problems with vision||7.8||21.1|
|q33a_c... skin problems||6.6||15.3|
|q33a_f… stomach ache||5.8||11.3|
|q33a_g… muscular pains||22.8||35.7|
|q33a_h… respiratory difficulties||4.7||14.0|
|q33a_i… heart disease||2.4||7.7|
|q35. Able to do same job when 60||58.2||54.9|
|q34a_d. Absent for health problems in previous year||22.9||21.8|
|q34b_ef. Average days health-related absence in previous year||4.6||4.3|
|Work and family life|
|q18. Working hours fit family/social commitments well or very well||79.4||76.0|
|q19. Contacted about work outside normal working hours||22.1||14.7|
|ef4c. Caring for and educating your children every day for an hour or more||28.8||33.3|
|ef4d. Cooking and housework||46.4||47.2|
|q36. Satisfied or very satisfied with working conditions||82.3||67.4|
|q37a_ef. I might lose my job in the next 6 months||13.7||23.3|
|q37b_ef. I am well paid for the work I do||43.2||32.1|
|q37c_ef. My job offers good prospects for career advancement||31.0||22.7|
|Structure of workforce|
|q2d_ef. Seniority (mean years)||9.7||7.9|
|q8a_ef. Mean usual weekly working hours||38.6||40.6|
|q8b. % usually working five days per week||65.1||69.6|
|q9a. % with more than one job||6.2||6.5|
|q13_ef. Daily commuting time (return, in minutes)||41.6||41.2|
|q14e_ef. Long working days||16.9||19.6|
|q16a_a. Work same number of hours each day||58.4||62.7|
|q16a_b. Work same number of days each week||74.0||72.2|
|q16a_c. Work fixed starting and finishing times||60.7||60.3|
|q16a_d. Work shifts||17.3||19.4|
|q17a. % with less flexible schedules||65.3||72.7|