Employees are satisfied with their work

Research by Statistics Estonia based on data from the Work Life Survey 2009 shows that, in general, Estonian employees are satisfied with their work. There were only minor differences in satisfaction by employment sector and gender. Employees aged 65 and older were most satisfied with their work and 50–64-year-olds least satisfied. The analysis also examined satisfaction with job security, job autonomy, responsibilities, employee needs and satisfaction with remuneration.


The study on Subjective measure of quality of work life’ (Tööelu kvaliteedi subjektiivne mõõde (152Kb PDF)) by Statistics Estonia (Statistikaamet) examined the factors that influence employees’ job satisfaction. The analysis is based on data from the Work Life Survey (WLS) conducted by Statistics Estonia and the Ministry of Social Affairs (Sotsiaalministeerium) in 2009.

Key findings

Job satisfaction by type of employer

No significant differences in employee satisfaction were found between different types of employer. Most employees are ‘quite satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their work (Figure 1), though satisfaction with work life is slightly higher among employees in non-profit associations and in state and local government agencies (both 91.8% compared with 87.5% in private companies).

Figure 1: Satisfaction with work by type of employer, 2009

Figure 1: Satisfaction with work by type of employer, 2009

Source: WLS 2009

Job satisfaction by age

Employees of retirement age were most satisfied with their work; 93% of those older than 65 years said that they were ‘satisfied’ with their work (Figure 2). One explanation for such a result may be that most older people are happy if they are given an opportunity to work and earn some extra money. This argument is confirmed by the fact that around 65% of employees aged 65 and older were satisfied with their pay, whereas satisfaction with pay was under 60% among all younger age groups.

Satisfaction with job security was high in all age groups. Only among employees aged 50–64 was the satisfaction rate less than 80%; the number of ‘dissatisfied’ was also highest in this age group. At the same time, younger employees aged 15–24 were least satisfied with employees’ involvement in decision-making processes and even more dissatisfied with career and self-development opportunities.

Figure 2: Satisfaction with work by age, 2009 (%)

Figure 2: Satisfaction with work by age, 2009 (%)

Source: WLS 2009

Job satisfaction by gender

There were also no significant differences when comparing employees’ satisfaction by gender. Both men and women were most satisfied with the security of employment relationship (80% among men and women) and less satisfied with their pay. However, the share of men who were satisfied with their pay was slightly higher and the share who were not satisfied was slightly lower than among women. The same pattern was found with the question about satisfaction with career and self-development opportunities.

Job autonomy and satisfaction with work life

Employees’ satisfaction with work autonomy was also studied. Eurofound’s Fourth European Working Conditions Survey has indicated that higher autonomy over how work is carried out tends to be associated with high levels of satisfaction with working conditions. In Estonia’s WLS, employees were asked to what extent they can decide on their tasks, pace of work, breaks, and work start or end time. In the WLS, 64% of employees said they had enough possibilities to determine their own work methods and pace; 60% could determine their rest time and 57% could determine their own work tasks (Figure 3). The work start and end time was usually determined by the employer and therefore around 80% of employees did not have a say on that matter. However, many employees might prefer pre-determined work time.

Figure 3: Employees’ job autonomy, 2009

Figure 3: Employees’ job autonomy, 2009

Source: WLS 2009

When employees were asked to think about their tasks, almost 80% stated that they often work in teams or with other people and 80% of employees considered their work tasks to be diverse. Some 70% of employees stated that their work assignments required constant learning of new knowledge and the ability to come up with new solutions. Almost all employees found their work required responsibility (92%) and 74% of employees stated that their assignments corresponded to their skills and knowledge. However, 23% of employees found that their skills and knowledge would enable them to carry out more challenging tasks and 4% thought that their current work tasks required higher level knowledge than they possessed.

When examining the relationship between job satisfaction and job diversity, it is not possible to say that more diverse jobs lead to higher job satisfaction. Also, no relationship was discovered between a job with high responsibilities and job satisfaction.

Employees’ needs and motivation

Estimates of employees’ satisfaction according to their basic and self-realisation needs were also analysed. When responding to the WLS, 93% of employees stated it had been important for them to work in the same organisation for a long time and 81% of employees said they were satisfied with the stability of their current employment relationship.

Nearly 80% of employees agreed that a strong and united team has a competitive advantage in the market, but more than 60% stated that they rarely, if at all, take part in decision-making processes affecting their work.

Remuneration is a good way to motivate employees, though it can easily cause more dissatisfaction than satisfaction. According to the WLS, 30% of employees were not satisfied with their pay and less than 50% of employees were satisfied with their career and self-development opportunities at work.

Although employees were found by the WLS to be generally satisfied with their work, there were some issues to which more attention should be paid in the future.

Liina Osila and Kirsti Nurmela, PRAXIS Centre for Policy Studies

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