Working conditions and sustainable work

Working conditions in the time of COVID-19: Implications for the future

Report
Updated
2 Nollaig 2022
Published
29 Samhain 2022
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  • Good job quality supports well-being and is at the heart of a high-quality working life. During the pandemic, job quality had a positive impact on work–life balance, the ability to make ends meet and greater trust within the workplace. These positive outcomes make work sustainable – enabling workers to remain in work over longer working lives.
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  • Good job quality supports well-being and is at the heart of a high-quality working life. During the pandemic, job quality had a positive impact on work–life balance, the ability to make ends meet and greater trust within the workplace. These positive outcomes make work sustainable – enabling workers to remain in work over longer working lives.
  • The survey confirms persistent gender segregation in sectors, occupations and workplaces, indicating that we are a long way from the goals of equal opportunities for women and men at work and equal access to key decision-making positions in the workplace. In 2021, only one in five workers worked in a gender-balanced workplace, while just one-third of workers had a female boss. This calls for a redoubling of efforts to dismantle the stereotypes that limit women’s and men’s choices in work.
  • Worryingly, the survey shows that a high number of people in work in the EU continued to be in vulnerable situations, with 26% having difficulty making ends meet and 17% unable to predict their earnings in the coming three months. This highlights the importance of focusing policy efforts on making work pay and targeting specific groups such as single parents and workers in low-paid jobs, who are under greater financial pressure and were more severely affected by the pandemic restrictions than other groups.
  • Most workers do not work in an environment that supports the development of their skills. Furthermore, close to half of workers reported that they did not have enough opportunities to use their skills and knowledge in their work. This emphasises the key role that companies play in supporting the development of a skilled workforce. The 2023 European Year of Skills can make a significant contribution to raising awareness about these challenges.
  • Job quality will play a critical role in the EU’s transition to a carbon-neutral economy by ensuring that new jobs and roles support longer, healthier and better working lives. The findings show that new green jobs will potentially have better job quality. However, many existing jobs for which demand will increase in the green transition show poorer job quality, underlining the importance of also mainstreaming job quality in greening policies.
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Achoimre

The strict public health restrictions implemented by governments in 2020 to control the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly changed working life and continued to shape it over the two years that followed. Between March and November 2021, over 70,000 interviews were carried out in 36 countries by the EuropRead more

The strict public health restrictions implemented by governments in 2020 to control the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly changed working life and continued to shape it over the two years that followed. Between March and November 2021, over 70,000 interviews were carried out in 36 countries by the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey (EWCTS), a high-quality probability-based survey. The aim was to provide a detailed picture of the working lives of Europeans in that exceptional time.

The report documents the working conditions of Europeans in 2021. It examines variation in job quality and identifies its positive association with well-being, health, work engagement and the financial sustainability of work. It highlights the divergences in the experiences of workers depending on workers’ own attributes and their place in the workforce. From this analysis, the report aims to derive lessons for the future, particularly in relation to the enduring marks on how we work and the implications for work organisation, the quality of work, and the interaction between work and private life.

The dataset for the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey (EWCTS) 2021 is available on the UK Data Service. 

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Formats

  • Report

    Number of pages: 
    150
    Reference no.: 
    EF22012
    ISBN: 
    978-92-897-2294-0
    Catalogue no.: 
    TJ-03-22-111-EN-N
    DOI: 
    10.2806/056613
    Catalogue info

    Working conditions in the time of COVID-19: Implications for the future

    Formats

    Cite this publication: 

    Eurofound (2022), Working conditions in the time of COVID-19: Implications for the future, European Working Conditions Telephone Survey 2021 series, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

  • Executive summary

    Reference no.: 
    EF22012EN1
    Catalogue info

    Working conditions in the time of COVID-19: Implications for the future

    Author(s): 
    Eurofound

    Available for download in 1 language

    Download
  • Working papers

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  • Tables and graphs

    The report contains the following lists of tables and figures.

    List of tables

    Table 1: Change in employment levels and weekly hours worked, year on year by quarter, by age and gender, EU27, 2019–2020 and 2020–2021
    Table 2: Distribution of workers according to employment situation at time of survey, by gender, EU27 (%)
    Table 3: Distribution of employees with working hours stated in their employment contract according to usual hours of work, by gender, EU27 (%)
    Table 4: Dimensions of job quality and corresponding job demands and job resources
    Table 5: Physical environment – High level of exposure to physical risks and demands, EU27, 2021 (%)
    Table 6: Social environment – Exposure to intimidation and discrimination and receipt of social support, EU27 (%)
    Table 7: Job tasks – Work intensity and task discretion and autonomy, EU27 (%)
    Table 8: Organisational characteristics – Organisational participation and dependence, EU27 (%)
    Table 9: Working time arrangements – Unsocial work schedules and flexibility in working hours, EU27 (%)
    Table 10: Job prospects – Job insecurity, training opportunities and career advancement, EU27 (%)
    Table 11: Intrinsic job features – Intrinsic rewards and opportunities for self-realisation, EU27, 2021 (%)
    Table 12: Association between job quality, job demands and job resources and well-being and quality of working life indicators
    Table 13: Reported health problems, by occupation, EU27 (percentage point difference from mean)
    Table 14: Greening occupational groups
    Table 15: Job demands of greening occupational groups compared with average
    Table 16: Job resources of greening occupational groups compared with average

    Table A1: EWCTS questionnaire structure
    Table A2: ISCO-08 occupational groups (two-digit level) classified by dominant gender
    Table A3: Variables used to identify COVID groups (other than occupation and sector)
    Table A4: Overview of the job quality dimensions and job characteristics of the quality of the working environment

    List of figures

    Figure 1: Changes in unemployment, employment and inactivity rates, year on year by quarter, EU27, 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 (percentage points)
    Figure 2: Total number of jobs supported by government measures, by month, EU27, 2020–2021 (millions)
    Figure 3: Sectoral shifts in employment, by NACE sector, year on year by quarter, EU27, Q2 2019–Q2 2021 (percentage points)
    Figure 4: Occupational shifts in employment, year on year by quarter, EU27, Q2 2019–Q2 2021 (percentage points)
    Figure 5: Temporary employees as a proportion of all employees, EU Member States, 2019–2021 (%)
    Figure 6: Shares of sectors in total employment, by gender, EU27 (%)
    Figure 7: Distribution of men, women and all workers according to sectoral gender-balance category, EU27 (%)
    Figure 8: Shares of occupations in total employment, by gender, EU27 (%)
    Figure 9: Distribution of men and women according to occupational gender-balance category, EU27 (%)
    Figure 10: Composition of households, by full-time and part-time employment and by gender, EU27 (%)
    Figure 11: Composition of households, by full-time and part-time employment, EU Member States and other European countries (%)
    Figure 12: Workers with temporary contracts, by occupational group and duration of contract, EU27 (%)
    Figure 13: Solo self-employed workers, by dependence status, EU Member States and other European countries (%)
    Figure 14: Employees who worked more than contracted hours, breakdown by sector and occupation according to gender, EU27 (%)
    Figure 15: Main place of work, by employment status, EU27 (%)
    Figure 16: Main place of work, by sector, EU27 (%)
    Figure 17: Main place of work, by occupation, EU27 (%)
    Figure 18: Main place of work, by telework status, EU27 (%)
    Figure 19: Categorisation of working population into COVID groups, EU27 (%)
    Figure 20: High levels of physical risk, by sector, EU27 (%)
    Figure 21: Subsectors with highest levels of exposure to infectious materials and proportion of women employed in each, EU27 (%)
    Figure 22: Exposure to at least one type of intimidation, EU Member States (%)
    Figure 23: Exposure to intimidation and discrimination, by sector and gender, EU27 (%)
    Figure 24: Levels of social support from managers, by COVID group, EU27 (%)
    Figure 25: Working at high speed and to tight deadlines always or often, EU Member States and other European countries (%)
    Figure 26: Autonomy to choose or change methods of work, by occupation, EU27 (%)
    Figure 27: Organisational participation and workplace voice, by COVID group, EU27 (%)
    Figure 28: Working in free time, by place of work, EU27 (%)
    Figure 29: Long working hours, by place of work, EU27 (%)
    Figure 30: Working at short notice, by employment status, EU27 (%)
    Figure 31: Very easy to take an hour or two off work, by occupation and gender, EU27 (%)
    Figure 32: Expectation of undesirable change in the workplace situation, by sector, EU27 (%)
    Figure 33: Access to training opportunities, by COVID group, EU27 (%)
    Figure 34: Recognition at work, by COVID group, EU27 (%)
    Figure 35: Job quality index, EU Member States and other European countries (%)
    Figure 36: Job quality index, by employment status, EU27 (%)
    Figure 37: Job quality index, by sector, EU27 (%)
    Figure 38: Job quality index, by occupation, EU27 (%)
    Figure 39: Extent of influence of a computerised system, a supervisor, and customers on employees’ work, EU27 (%)
    Figure 40: Employees influenced to a large extent by a computerised system, a supervisor and customers, by occupation, EU27 (%)
    Figure 41: Employees influenced by a computerised system, a supervisor and customers, by level of autonomy, EU27 (%)
    Figure 42: Extent of combined influence on employees, by work intensity, EU27 (%)
    Figure 43: Frequency of working with digital devices, by extent of influence of a computerised system, EU27 (%)
    Figure 44: Autonomy of employees influenced by a computerised system, by use of a digital device, EU27 (%)
    Figure 45: Types of work organisation and proportion of EU employees in each, EU27 (%)
    Figure 46: Types of work organisation, by COVID groups, EU27 (% of employees)
    Figure 47: Job quality index, by type of work organisation, EU27 (% of employees)
    Figure 48: Health and safety delegate or committee in the workplace, by sector and workplace size, EU27 (% of employees)
    Figure 49: Health and safety delegate or committee in the workplace, EU Member States and other European countries (% of employees)
    Figure 50: Trade union, works council or similar body in the workplace, by sector and workplace size, EU27 (% of employees)
    Figure 51: Formal employee representation setup, by main place of work, EU27 (% of employees)
    Figure 52: Formal employee representation setup, by COVID group, EU27 (% of employees)
    Figure 53: Distribution of employees according to presence of formal employee representation and meetings in the workplace, EU27 (%)
    Figure 54: Predominant gender in the workplace, by gender, EU27 (%)
    Figure 55: Predominant gender in the workplace in mixed-gender occupations, EU27 (%)
    Figure 56: Predominant gender in the workplace, by COVID group, EU27 (%)
    Figure 57: Gender of the boss, EU Member States and other European countries (%)
    Figure 58: Gender of the boss, by employee gender, EU27 (%)
    Figure 59: Educational level of employees, by gender of boss, EU27 (%)
    Figure 60: COVID groups, by employee gender and gender of the boss, EU27 (%)
    Figure 61: Usual number of days in a working week, by employment status, EU27 (%)
    Figure 62: Usual weekly hours in paid work and their dispersion, by gender, EU Member States and other European countries (weekly hours)
    Figure 63: Distribution of employees and the self-employed according to usual weekly hours in paid work, by gender, EU27 (%)
    Figure 64: Usual weekly hours in paid work, by occupational group, sector and workplace size, EU27 (%)
    Figure 65: Gender gaps in weekly paid, unpaid and total working hours, EU Member States (weekly hours)
    Figure 66: Frequency of unpaid work activities, by gender, EU27 (%)
    Figure 67: Paid and unpaid work, by occupational group and gender, EU27 (weekly hours)
    Figure 68: Paid and unpaid work, by COVID group and gender, EU27 (weekly hours)
    Figure 69: Paid and unpaid work of women and men, by full-time and part-time status, EU27 (weekly hours)
    Figure 70: Paid, unpaid and total work of women and men, by age group, EU27 (weekly hours)
    Figure 71: Daily unpaid work activities, by gender and age group, EU27 (%)
    Figure 72: Paid and unpaid work of women and men, by number of children, EU27 (weekly hours)
    Figure 73: Paid and unpaid work of women and men, by ability to make ends meet, EU27 (weekly hours)
    Figure 74: Workers whose working hours fitted in with family and social commitments outside work well or very well, EU Member States and other European countries (%)
    Figure 75: Poor fit between working hours and family and social commitments outside work, by occupation, sector and employment status, EU27 (%)
    Figure 76: Fit between working hours and family and social commitments outside work, by COVID group, EU27 (%)
    Figure 77: Poor work–life balance, men and women compared, by age group, household type and age of youngest child, EU27 (%)
    Figure 78: Work–life conflicts, by occupation and sector, EU27 (%)
    Figure 79: Work–life conflicts, men and women compared, by COVID group, EU27 (%)
    Figure 80: Worrying about work (always or often), men and women compared, by age group, household type and age of youngest child, EU27 (%)
    Figure 81: Feeling tired after work (always or often), men and women compared, by age group, household type and age of youngest child, EU27 (%)
    Figure 82: Fit between working hours and family and social commitments outside work, by job quality, EU27 (%)
    Figure 83: Work–life conflicts, men and women compared, by job quality, EU27 (%)
    Figure 84: Distribution of usual and preferred weekly hours, by gender and employment status, EU27 (%)
    Figure 85: Working time preferences, by usual weekly working hours and work–life balance, EU27 (%)
    Figure 86: Working time preferences, by age group, employment status, occupation and sector, EU27 (%)
    Figure 87: Working time preferences, by relationship between usual hours and contracted hours, EU27 (%)
    Figure 88: Difference between average usual and preferred weekly working hours, by household type and gender, EU27 (hours)
    Figure 89: Working time preferences, by COVID group, EU27 (%)
    Figure 90: Difficulty making ends meet, by country, EU27 and other European countries (%)
    Figure 91: Difficulty making ends meet, by household type and level of difficulty, EU27 (%)
    Figure 92: Financial sustainability indicators, by COVID group, EU27 (%)
    Figure 93: Job quality index, by ability to make ends meet, EU27 (%)
    Figure 94: Aspects of social climate, by type of work organisation, EU27 (%)
    Figure 95: Aspects of social climate, by COVID group, EU27 (%)
    Figure 96: Social climate indicator, by job quality index, EU27 (%)
    Figure 97: Work engagement, by type of work organisation and COVID group, EU27 (%)
    Figure 98: Work engagement by the job quality index, EU27 (%)
    Figure 99: Employees whose health and safety is at risk because of their work, by sector and occupation, EU27 (%)
    Figure 100: Health problems reported in the 12 months before the survey, EU27 (%)
    Figure 101: Number of health problems, by COVID group, EU27 (%)
    Figure 102: Presenteeism, by place of work, EU27 (%)
    Figure 103: Presenteeism, by gender, EU27 and other European countries (%)
    Figure 104: WHO-5 Well-being Index scores, by sociodemographic group and employment status (mean)
    Figure 105: Job quality index, by health-related indicators, EU27 (%)
    Figure 106: Job quality index, by greening occupational groups (%)

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Research carried out prior to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union on 31 January 2020, and published subsequently, may include data relating to the 28 EU Member States. Following this date, research only takes into account the 27 EU Member States (EU28 minus the UK), unless specified otherwise.

Part of the series

  • European Working Conditions Telephone Survey 2021

    Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) paints a wide-ranging picture of Europe at work across countries, occupations, sectors and age groups. This series consists of findings from the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey (EWCTS) 2021, an extraordinary edition conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was first carried out in 1990.

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