Lithuania: Job quality and working conditions of home care workers

As part of an 18-month project to examine employment and demand for services in Lithuania’s elderly care sector, researchers have carried out a survey that highlights the low wages and poor working conditions of the sector. Despite this, the findings indicate that workers in the sector report a high level of job satisfaction.

About the survey

A project entitled 'Transformation of the elderly care sector: Demand for services and labour force and quality of work' was carried out by Vilnius University, in cooperation with the Lithuanian Social Research Centre, between September 2015 and April 2017. One of the main objectives of the project was to analyse job quality and working conditions of home care workers in Lithuania and to this end a sociological survey was carried out in 2016. Its findings indicated that, despite poor wages and poor working conditions, home care workers are highly satisfied with their work.

Methodology

The representative survey to analyse job quality and working conditions of home care workers covered a total of 421 home care workers from municipal and private home care agencies, accounting for around 28% of all the workers in this sector in Lithuania. The survey was based on a questionnaire completed by respondents during face-to-face interviews conducted between May and June 2016.

Key findings

Women workers are in the majority  

Women accounted for the majority (98.6%) of respondents and more than half (57.2%) were over the age of 50 (compared with only about 30% of the country’s total female labour force). Women under 29 years-old made up just 5.7% of all survey respondents.

Questions about their level of educational attainment revealed that 31.2% had university degrees, 33.3% were upper secondary education graduates and the rest had received vocational upper secondary education. The sample was made up of similar proportions of workers based in rural areas and two types of urban contexts; 36.1% were working in the five biggest Lithuanian cities, 34.0% were employed in other cities/towns and 29.9% worked in rural areas.

Prevalence of atypical forms of employment and low wages

The survey found that almost all (99.3%) home care workers were hired on employment contracts. Although most said they had indefinite employment contracts, up to 13.8% of the respondents were employed on a fixed-term basis. This portion was even larger among those who had worked in the sector for two years or less (21.1%). This is a high figure in the context of Eurostat figures which show that the proportion of employees with fixed-term contracts made up about 2.1% of the total labour force on average in Lithuania in 2015.

The survey also revealed that about a third of respondents (33.8%) were part-time workers. According to the Lithuanian Statistics Department (LSD), part-time employment constituted around 8.3% of total employment in Lithuania in 2015. The survey also found that the average monthly net salary in the sector was close to Lithuania’s minimum wage, amounting to a full-time equivalent wage of around €350 a month. LSD data show that, in the first quarter of 2016, the average monthly net pay in Lithuania was about two-thirds higher at €583.9.

Inflexible working hours and unattractive working conditions

The majority of respondents (84.6%) worked ‘usual’ hours, meaning fixed hours from Monday to Friday. About one in seven respondents had flexible working hours (14.3%). Although about two-thirds (66.7%) of respondents reported being satisfied with their existing workload, 18.1% felt their workload was too high. In addition, around 40% of the respondents said they could rarely or never arrange their working hours based on customers’ needs, while about 60% reported that they usually or always had this opportunity.

Other significant findings included:

  • painful or tiring physical work, including lifting or moving other people, was ‘often’ part of the work for 28.7% of respondents and ‘sometimes’ for 55.1%;
  • stress and emotional tension was experienced ‘often’ by 26.4% and ‘sometimes’ by 54.9%;
  • disrespectful behaviour, threats and/or insults from customers’ relatives were experienced by 5.7% ‘often’ and 53.7% ‘sometimes’.

Home care workers highly satisfied with their work

Despite rather poor working conditions, the survey found that home care workers were highly satisfied with their work. The survey included certain work-related statements which respondents were asked to agree or disagree with. The majority (92.9%) agreed or strongly agreed that ‘The most important thing to me is that I can help others’. Similarly, most agreed or strongly agreed with the statements ‘I like my job’ and ‘I always receive help from my manager when difficulties in my work arise’ (83.9% and 83.8%, respectively).

The respondents were further asked how often they experienced work-related negative emotions or thoughts. The least frequent thoughts were reported to be ‘I hate direct work with customers’ and ‘I want to quit right now’ (reported ‘never’ or ’very rarely’ by 90.2% and 83.9%, respectively).

This apparently high job satisfaction may explain why most respondents were not planning to change their jobs in the near future (70.8%); a quarter (25.7%) were ‘undecided’ on this point and only 1.7% said they were planning to change their jobs and switch to a radically different career.

Factors likely to increase job satisfaction

During the interviews, the home care workers were asked about factors likely to increase their job satisfaction even more. The majority (97.9%) mentioned that a higher salary was a key factor. The average salary desired by respondents was almost twice as high as their current salary. Two-thirds of respondents (66.7%) wanted more social guarantees of various types. More than half stressed both a better supply of resources to assist them in their daily work, such as computers and phones, and better opportunities for professional and career advancement (58.4% and 56.1%, respectively).

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