24 January 2023
Working conditions refer to the conditions in and under which work is performed. A working condition is a characteristic or a combination of characteristics of work that can be modified and improved.Read more
Working conditions refer to the conditions in and under which work is performed. A working condition is a characteristic or a combination of characteristics of work that can be modified and improved. Current conceptions of working conditions incorporate considerations of wider factors, which may affect the employee psychosomatically. Thus, a broader definition of the term includes the economic dimension of work and effects on living conditions. Working conditions are a subject of labour law and are regulated by all of its various sources: legislation, collective agreements, works rules, the employment contract, as well as custom and practice.
European countries have a strong commitment towards improving working conditiRead more
European countries have a strong commitment towards improving working conditions. While much attention has focused on working conditions that have a negative impact on health and safety and well-being, conditions supportive of ‘good work’ and high job quality are also gaining in importance.
Working conditions and job quality are high on the European policy agenda. The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) underlines as significant objectives the ‘promotion of employment, improved living and working conditions … proper social protection, dialogue between management and labour, the development of human resources with a view to lasting employment and the combating of exclusion’.
EU policy enshrines equal opportunities in the workplace for women and men, limits working hours, sets standards to ensure safety, and promotes investment in skills development. The European Commission and Member States have set up different processes to monitor progress and developments in relation to working conditions.
On 17 November 2017, the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission formally proclaimed the European Pillar of Social Rights. One of the main principles of the pillar is to achieve fair working conditions. This covers secure and adaptable employment, wages, employment conditions and protection in case of dismissals, social dialogue and involvement of workers, work–life balance, as well as a healthy, safe and well-adapted work environment and data protection.
Adopted in June 2019, and as a direct follow up to the Pillar, the new Directive 2019/1152 on transparent and predictable working conditions sets out new minimum rights for all workers and new rules on the provision of information to workers about their working conditions.
- EUR-Lex: Article 151 of TFEU
- European Commission: The European Pillar of Social Rights in 20 principles
- EUR-Lex: Directive 2019/1152 on transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union
Eurofound monitors the working conditions of employees and self-employed at work. It provides analyses focusing on work situations of interest – such as ICT mobile work and psychosocial risks at work – and addressing specific groups in the labour market.Read more
Eurofound monitors the working conditions of employees and self-employed at work. It provides analyses focusing on work situations of interest – such as ICT mobile work and psychosocial risks at work – and addressing specific groups in the labour market. Research on sustainable work looks at the role of work and its conditions in supporting people’s participation in work across their life course in ways that accommodate individual preferences and enable them to experience a good quality of work.
Working conditions survey data
Since its launch in 1990, Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) has provided an overview of working conditions in Europe. The scope of the survey questionnaire has widened substantially since the first edition, aiming to provide a comprehensive picture of the everyday reality of men and women at work. The seventh EWCS takes place in 2020, covering 37 countries.
The EWCS covers a wide range of issues:
- job quality (physical environment, social environment, skills and discretion, work intensity, working time quality, prospects and earnings) and the risks and resources contributing to these aspects of work, including employment status
- work determinants and characteristics of work (working with customers, use of technology, where work takes place)
- workers and enterprise demographics (age, sex, seniority, enterprise size, industry)
- second jobs and multi-activity work
- organisational factors that can be validly captured through a workers’ questionnaire (work processes, work pace, pace determinants, employee participation, teamwork, workplace human resource policies and work organisation characteristics, trust, cooperation and organisational rewards)
- the quality of working life as assessed by workers (work–life balance, health and well-being, skills match, financial security, sustainability of work, absence and presenteeism, and outcomes such as engagement and motivation)
By including these multiple dimensions, the EWCS provides some insight into contemporary challenges in the world of work, for example the blurring of boundaries between working life and private life, the changing nature of work organisation or increased reliance on outsourcing. Further insights can be gained if surveys are regularly updated to integrate emerging risks, such as those related to workers’ privacy and collection of private data at the workplace.
Upward convergence in working conditions
Social convergence has gained an equal footing alongside economic convergence as an EU goal in the wake of the economic crisis. Eurofound research examines convergence in working conditions, looking at whether working conditions have improved over the past two decades in the EU and whether differences between Member States have narrowed. Globalisation and labour market institutions play a role in promoting convergence in working conditions.Read less
Key outputs over the years
- Over the past 20 years, there has been upward convergence in six of seven selected dimensions of working conditions, in terms of poorer-performing Member States catching up with better-performing ones. There was downward convergence in the dimension on ‘prospects’ (job security and career advancement).
- Publication: Upward convergence in working conditions
- Job quality supports well-being and a positive experience of working life through engagement, financial security, the development of skills and competences, health and well-being, the reconciliation of work and private life, and the sustainability of work.
- Women and men report systematic differences in their working conditions. Gender differences in labour market participation, gender roles and occupational segregation are crucial to understanding the pattern of differences in working conditions.
- Publication: Gender equality - Women and men at work (January 2020)
- Reducing excessive demands on workers and limiting their exposure to risks can improve job quality. This is complemented by increasing access to work resources that help in achieving work goals or mitigate the effects of excessive demands.
- Publication: Working conditions and workers' health
- A zero tolerance policy on harassment and violence at work can improve working conditions and job quality, reducing staff turnover and absenteeism.
- Diversification and fragmentation of the labour market call for more in-depth analysis on changes in employment status, as well as emerging work situations.
Publications & dataTop
The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic.
- Publications (2345)
- Ongoing work (2)
Eurofound publications come in a variety of formats, including reports, policy briefs, blogs, articles and presentations.
Teleworking numbers double in EU to 41.7 million in 2021 bringing better work-life balance, more autonomy but longer working hours and isolationNews 8 December 2022
Watch the webinar - #AskTheExpert: Making telework work for everyone – lessons from the pandemic for a digital ageEvent 6 December 2022
A selection of related data on this topic are linked below.
- Data: European Working Conditions Survey - Data visualisation
- Country: Country profiles – Find information on aspects of working life in each EU Member State
Research continues in this topic on a variety of themes, which are outlined below with links to forthcoming titles.
- Analysis of how working conditions differ across sectors to provide evidence on working conditions and their implications for sustainable work
- Links between forms of work organisation and employee engagement and development of workers' knowledge and skills
- Flagship report on working conditions and sustainable work (including findings from ‘Differences in working conditions between various groups of workers – analysing trends over time’)
- Highlights of recent developments of selected features of working life in so-called topical updates, with one featuring statutory minimum wages