Comparative reports from the Observatory network of national correspondents
Comparative reports are significant pieces of comparative analysis covering developments at EU and national level on a pre-selected theme. They are based on structured contributions from the national correspondents, each covering their own country. A synthesis 'comparative report' is prepared by a lead correspondent and the national contributions are also published.
21 February 2013: Wages and working conditions in the crisis (EU Countries / Comparative analytical report [ or view as size 1963 kb])
The economic and financial crisis of 2008–2010 has impacted on pay in most EU Member States leading to wage deceleration, pay freezes and sometimes pay cuts. The crisis hit vulnerable groups (low-skilled, young, migrants) particularly hard. Data from five key sectors (manufacturing, construction, accommodation and food services, financial services, public administration) reveal more crisis effects on employment than on wages. Cuts in low-paid and temporary jobs, or reductions in their hours, tended to be the first measure adopted while the ‘wage cushion’ often seen in higher-ranking jobs allowed cost savings through cuts in bonuses and other rewards. Cutting wages is also seen as detrimental to worker motivation and retention. Most responses taken were temporary with few trade-offs at company level between wages and other elements of the employment relationship.
08 November 2012: Industrial relations and working conditions developments in Europe 2011 (EU Countries / Comparative analytical report [ or view as size 2897 kb])
This annual review describes the developments in industrial relations and working conditions in 2011 in the EU Member States and Norway, at both national and EU level, with a focus on the economic situation and responses to it. The report describes the current economic situation in EU Member States and highlights relevant political and legislative developments in individual countries. It describes labour market trends in Europe and developments in career and employment security, health and well-being at work, skills development and work–life balance. It also examines changes in the organisation and role of social partners, developments in collective bargaining (at cross-sectoral, sectoral and company levels), working time, pay developments, social dialogue developments, industrial conflicts and company restructuring in 2011. At European level, the report summarises the main events over the course of 2011, charting trends in European social policy, employment legislation and social dialogue.
03 August 2012: Working conditions in the retail sector (EU Countries / Comparative analytical report [ or view as size 879 kb])
This report examines trends in working conditions and employment status in the retail sector in the EU27 countries and Norway between 2001 and 2010. The considerable expansion of the sector over the past 20 years or so is associated with a transformation in its competitive structure, greater use of technology and changes in the regulatory framework. Large companies now dominate at the expense of the numerous small and micro businesses that once characterised the sector in most countries. One result is a significant decline in the number of self-employed workers and a substantial increase in the number of part-time jobs (many held by women) and non-permanent contracts. These changes have affected career patterns and introduced new risks to employees’ health, especially psychosocial ones. Recent initiatives by the social partners have aimed above all to regulate flexibility and working time arrangements, promote training, reduce the risk of robbery and enhance employee well-being.
29 June 2012: Recent developments in work organisation in the EU27 Member States and Norway (EU Countries / Comparative analytical report [ or view as size 246 kb])
This report examines recent developments in work organisation in the EU27 Member States and Norway. Work organisation broadly refers to issues such as the structure of the production process, the relationship between staff and production departments, the responsibilities at different hierarchical levels and the design of individual jobs. Modern patterns of work organisation can be a double-edged sword for employees in terms of working conditions. The factors contributing to workers’ job satisfaction such as high levels of autonomy and involvement, increased responsibilities and task complexity are the same as those that can create strain through increased levels of stress and work pressure, workload, job insecurity or a poor work–life balance. The direct participation arrangements of employees are relatively well-spread, although this has not necessarily implied a higher degree of autonomy and control or a reduction in hierarchical and control structures within enterprises.
03 May 2012: Use of alcohol and drugs at the workplace (EU Countries / Comparative analytical report [ or view as size 299 kb])
Alcohol and drugs represent a serious problem for a significant percentage of the working population (5%–20% of workers), especially in some sectors and occupations. Consumption of alcohol and drugs at work can have negative impacts for individuals and organisations in terms of health problems, more instances of sick leave/short-term absenteeism, reduced performance, labour conflicts, more work accidents, company image problems, and damage to equipment or products. Public authorities and social partners in EU countries have developed national legislation and agreements banning/limiting alcohol/drug use at work, with a focus on testing practices intended to control usage at work. Public authorities and social partners have also adopted various policy measures to prevent and combat the negative effects of alcohol and drug use at work.
17 November 2011: Industrial relations and working conditions developments in Europe 2010 (EU Countries / Comparative analytical report [ or view as size 594 kb])
With a particular focus on the crisis and responses to it, this annual review highlights developments in working conditions and industrial relations in the EU Member States and Norway in 2010, both at national and EU level. At national level, the report examines key issues covered by collective bargaining (pay and working time) and looks at developments in social partner activity and industrial action. It also looks at company restructuring, the impact of the crisis and approaches to pension reform in light of demographic change. At European level, it reviews the year’s main events and trends in employment legislation and policy (in areas like paternity/maternity leave and working time), as well as in the European social dialogue at cross-sectoral, sectoral and company levels. The final chapter focuses on training initiatives provided or supported by enterprises for their employees during the recession.
10 August 2011: Working conditions of nationals with a foreign background (EU Countries / Comparative analytical report [ or view as size 460 kb])
This report presents an overview of the employment and working conditions of nationals with a foreign background (NFB) and nationals with a different ethnic affiliation (NEA) based on reports from national correspondents. It highlights the scarcity of relevant data on these groups in EU countries and the different interpretation of EU legislation in debates across the EU27 on ethnic data collection. The picture painted of the work quality of NFB/NEA is not straightforward as, although the prevalence of precarious work is sometimes higher in this group, non-nationals are often worse off. There are large differences in the labour market participation of NFB/NEA between EU countries. Apart from foreign background, other factors such as gender, ethnic origin and skills play a role. Nevertheless, stereotyping and discrimination are mentioned as an important determinant in at least 14 countries. Many EU countries still have a lot to learn about tackling work-related discrimination complaints.
01 March 2011: Preparing for the upswing: training and qualification during the crisis (EU Countries / Comparative analytical report [ or view as size 589 kb])
The economic crisis has had a profound impact on enterprises throughout Europe. This report examines training initiatives provided or supported by enterprises (external and internal measures) during the recession for their employees (it does not cover training initiatives for the unemployed). The report begins by highlighting the dramatic increase in unemployment rates in EU Member States and Norway between the second quarter of 2008 and the corresponding period in 2010, before discussing the effectiveness of training activities as a tool for dealing with the effects of the recession on enterprises and the available evidence on the extent of training in the workplace during the recession. It describes a range of crisis-related policy measures for supporting training activities and presents successful examples of training measures implemented by enterprises in various Member States. The report concludes by examining the positions and views of social partners on the importance of training during the recession.
23 December 2010: Annual review of working conditions 2009–2010 (EU Countries / Comparative analytical report [ or view as size 1186 kb])
This seventh annual review examines four key dimensions of working conditions and quality of work and employment: career development and employment security, health and well-being, skills and competence development, and work–life balance. The report outlines relevant legislative and policy developments, and examines trends in the workplace during the period 2009–2010.
19 November 2010: Work-related stress (EU Countries / Comparative analytical report [ or view as size 416 kb])
This report examines the issue of work-related stress in the 27 EU Member States and Norway. Studies capturing data on work-related stress in individual countries differ in terms of their scope, methodology and coverage. The main risk factors for work-related stress include heavy workload, long working hours, lack of control and autonomy at work, poor relationships with colleagues, poor support at work and the impact of organisational change. These factors can be difficult to address, especially if they have resource implications. The main outcomes (individual, organisational and societal) of work-related stress include physical and mental health problems, absence from work, reduced quality of outputs, increased welfare and medical spending, and reduced productivity. Company-level examples of best practice in stress management highlight the need for good quality data on work-related stress, a robust stress policy, the involvement of all relevant actors, good communications, and the importance of buy-in from senior management.
Teamwork and high performance work organisation [ or view as size 998 kb]
This report provides a comparative overview of teamwork, based on the European Working Conditions Surveys and 16 national contributions to a questionnaire. It considers how teamwork has developed as a new form of work organisation and takes into account the context at national and company level. The study assesses the positive and negative influence of teamwork on diverse aspects of working conditions, such as job autonomy, job satisfaction, work intensity, productivity and the learning environment. It also investigates the prevalence of teamwork according to various factors including sex, sector and occupation. The national contributions from the following 16 countries are available (as PDF files): Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Gender mainstreaming in surveys [ or view as size 109 kb]
This comparative analytical report provides a comparative overview of how gender mainstreaming is incorporated into national working conditions surveys, based on 12 national contributions. It investigates the conceptual and methodological framework of gender mainstreaming in surveys, as well as its implementation. The report then examines some of the survey findings on the respective situation of women and men regarding working conditions. The national contributions from the following 12 countries are available (as PDF files): Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
Measuring job satisfaction in surveys - Comparative analytical report [ or view as size 233 kb]
This report provides a comparative overview of how job satisfaction is measured in national working conditions surveys, based on 16 national contributions to a questionnaire (PDF file). It investigates conceptual and methodological issues in the study of job satisfaction. The report then examines survey results on levels of general or overall job satisfaction among workers, as well as identifying the relationship between specific factors relating to work and job satisfaction. The national contributions from the following 16 countries are available (as PDF files): Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Jorge Cabrita and Heloisa Perista (CESIS, Portugal) coordinated the preparation of this comparative analytical report.
Combining family and full-time work [ or view as size 405 kb]
Full-time work has become an increasingly common employment pattern in the European Union, for both sexes, since the enlargement of the EU to 25 countries in 2004. At the same time, there is widespread discussion about working time flexibility as a desired solution to enhancing the work–life balance of working parents. This report shows that such flexibility varies significantly between countries and sexes. However, to better understand the impact of this flexibility on work–life balance, it must be recognised that flexibility can be either positive or negative, and that predictable working time arrangements may also be a good solution for working parents. The report provides a comparative overview based on 12 national reports, which are also available (as pdf files): Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
Impact of training on people’s employability [ or view as size 369 kb]
Data from national working conditions surveys and other sources reveal that fixed-term and temporary agency contract holders in the European Union are at a disadvantage in terms of access to both training and competence development in companies. A number of relevant indicators in the surveys highlight this fact. Such national data tend to confirm the research findings of the European Working Conditions Surveys, carried out by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions in 1990, 1995 and 2000-1, and offer further insights into this issue.This study examines the issue of training and employability, focusing on those workers on fixed-term and temporary agency contracts. The 12 national reports are also available (as pdf files): Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
Work-related stress [ or view as size 215 kb]
Changes in the content and organisation of work in recent decades have resulted in an intensification of work, which is commonly regarded as a cause of stress. This report presents trends in the risks and consequences of work-related stress, and identifies how these can be prevented. The analysis is based on national surveys and research information available in the EU, as well as recent research findings.
Information technology: Use and training in Europe [ or view as size 267 kb]
The growth of information and communication technologies (ICT) has had a dramatic impact on almost all sectors and occupations, fundamentally changing the face of the workplace. This report looks at computer use and training provisions in Europe. Information technology use and skills are seen as vital elements in achieving the European objective to become the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world.
Temporary agency work in the European Union [ or view as size 97 kb]
Overall dissatisfaction with their working conditions and job situation among temporary agency workers would seem to indicate the existence of poor working conditions among this group. However, specific health and quality of work indicators paint a more ambiguous picture. They reveal that the main reasons behind this dissatisfaction are the insecurity inherent in this form of employment and the fact that temporary agency work may often be taken up involuntarily.