High job satisfaction but insecurity about pay and retirement

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Based on data obtained from the Austrian Working Climate Survey, this report examines aspects of job satisfaction, revealing generally high levels of satisfaction among the respondents overall. The report also raises the question of whether the existence of a works council makes a difference in this context. At the same time, it assesses people’s feelings of security or insecurity in relation to the future, revealing significant fears concerning employability and income in retirement. Furthermore, the report examines aspects of workload strain, such as time pressure, with women reporting lower levels of work strain than men with regard to all aspects of working conditions.

 

 


About the survey

The Austrian Working Climate Survey (Arbeitsklima-Index) is the only working conditions survey in Austria besides the Labour Force Survey (Arbeitskräfteerhebung), and is therefore of particular importance with regard to working conditions in the country. The standardised survey is based on a representative sample of about 1,000 respondents, who were interviewed in two waves over a six-month period. It was commissioned by the Upper Austrian Chamber of Labour (Arbeiterkammer Oberösterreich, AK) and carried out by the Institute for Empirical Social Research (Institut für Empirische Sozialforschung, IFES) and the Institute for Social Research and Analysis (SORA).

The analysis for this report is based on the interview wave of January to February 2008, which comprised 1,009 interviewees with 941 employed and 68 unemployed persons. A stratified multistage clustered random sampling was used as the sampling method, and computer-based face-to-face interviews were conducted. The whole sample involved 2,000 respondents, including people who are not active in the labour market. However, the analyses only refer to dependent employed and unemployed persons of the sample, excluding self-employed people, with the following characteristics. The survey population consists of 51.6% men and 48.4% women. In terms of age, 25% of the population are aged 15–29, while 29% are aged 30–39, 29% aged 40–49 and a further 17% are aged 50 years and over. A majority (53%) of the survey population are white-collar workers in private companies, while a third are blue-collar workers employed by private companies and about 17% work in the public sector.

The survey covers questions on the type of employment contract, in particular in relation to temporary agency work, along with questions on job satisfaction, feelings of security or insecurity with regard to the future, working time, job tenure, work-life balance and work strains.

 

 


Job satisfaction

One of the core objectives of the Working Climate Survey is to assess the different aspects of job satisfaction. Accordingly, the respondents were asked to rank their degree of satisfaction with the job on a scale of one to five, where one means ‘very satisfied’ and five means ‘not satisfied at all’.

Overall, the respondents showed very high satisfaction levels with their job and with different aspects of the job. This is indicated by the high score of the mean values of satisfaction, which range from 1.55 in terms of relations with colleagues to 2.38 in relation to pay (Table 1). Nonetheless, even though the mean values are generally very high, some interesting differences emerge.

Table 1: Satisfaction with specific aspects of job, by sex, 2008
This table outlines men’s and women’s satisfaction with their working time, work relations, autonomy, pay, work tasks and career opportunities.
  Men Women Average
Relations with colleagues 1.53 1.57 1.55
Working time 1.83 1.71 1.77
Management style of line managers 2.00 1.94 1.97
Social benefits at company level 2.08 2.06 2.07
Opportunities to determine work processes 2.17 2.07 2.12
Workers’ rights towards employers 2.21 2.12 2.17
Further training opportunities 2.25 2.19 2.22
Opportunities for workers’ involvement in decision-making 2.32 2.25 2.29
Career opportunities 2.36 2.38 2.37
Pay 2.34 2.42 2.38

Notes: Answers are based on a 5-point satisfaction scale, where 1 = very satisfied and 5 = not satisfied at all. Mean values are shown.

Source: Working Climate Survey, 2008

The results in Table 1 show that, in relation to aspects such as pay, career opportunities, employee participation and further training opportunities, the workers’ satisfaction levels are considerably lower than those regarding relations with colleagues, working time, the management style of line managers and social benefits at company level. The differences between men and women are so small that they cannot really be considered as significant.

However, significant differences emerge in satisfaction levels when taking a closer look at different groups of workers (T-test and Levene-test of significance). Unskilled workers – that is, those with no vocational education who work in jobs where no vocational skills are needed – show a lower level of job satisfaction in all aspects of their working conditions (Table 2). The greatest discrepancy is evident in the area of further training opportunities, where their mean value of satisfaction (2.79) is 0.57 points higher, denoting lower satisfaction than average; similarly low levels of satisfaction among unskilled workers are evident in relation to pay (2.85) and career opportunities (2.83), where the differences amount to 0.47 and 0.46 respectively.

Table 2: Unskilled workers’ satisfaction with specific aspects of job, by job characteristics, 2008
This table outlines unskilled workers’ satisfaction with their working time, pay, work tasks, career opportunities and work relations.
  Unskilled workers Total average
Working time 1.94 1.77
Social benefits at company level 2.29 2.07
Opportunities to determine work processes 2.42 2.12
Workers’ rights towards employers 2.46 2.17
Further training opportunities 2.79 2.22
Opportunities for workers’ involvement in decision-making 2.53 2.29
Career opportunities 2.83 2.37
Pay 2.85 2.38
Relations with colleagues 1.72 1.55

Notes: Answers are based on a 5-point scale, where 1 = very satisfied and 5 = not satisfied at all. Mean values are shown.

Source: Working Climate Survey, 2008

In relation to working time arrangements, it is not surprising that workers with stable working time (1.69) and flexible work schedules (1.66) show the highest satisfaction, while shift workers (2.05) and workers on call (1.95) show the lowest levels of satisfaction.



Impact of works council on job satisfaction

A comparison of job satisfaction between employees in companies with a works council and those without a works council shows interesting results (Table 3).

Table 3: Comparison of workers’ satisfaction with specific aspects of job, in companies with and without a works council, 2008
This table outlines different groups of workers’ satisfaction with job aspects both in companies with and without a works council.
  Workers in companies with a works council Workers in companies without a works council Average
Pay 2.18 2.43 2.38
Social benefits at company level 1.94 2.29 2.07
Working time 1.72 1.88 1.77
Career opportunities 2.30 2.52 2.37
Further training opportunities 2.10 2.44 2.22
Management style of line managers 2.05 1.90 1.97
Relations with colleagues 1.60 1.50 1.55
Opportunities for workers’ involvement in decision-making 2.32 2.27 2.29
Opportunities to determine work processes 2.17 2.08 2.12

Notes: Answers are based on a 5-point scale, where 1 = very satisfied and 5 = not satisfied at all. Mean values are shown.

Source: Working Climate Survey, 2008

On the one hand, the comparison shows higher satisfaction levels among those working in companies with a works council than those employed by companies without a works council in relation to the ‘hard’ issues of working conditions – such as pay, social benefits at company level, career and further training opportunities (T-test and Levene-test of significance). The highest differences in satisfaction levels can be seen in the areas of social benefits at company level (0.35) and further training opportunities (0.34), again pointing to higher satisfaction levels among those working in companies with a works council than those employed by companies without a works council. Similarly, with regard to pay (0.25) and career opportunities (0.22), satisfaction is considerably lower in companies without a works council. Conversely, persons working in companies without a works council are slightly more satisfied in relation to the so-called ‘soft issues’ of working conditions – such as the management style of line managers, relations with colleagues and opportunities for decision making. These results should be interpreted against the background of Austrian labour legislation, which gives works councils a strong negotiation role in the so-called ‘hard’ issues of working conditions.

With regard to pay, clear differences also emerge from the survey results. In the survey, the workers were asked if their pay levels meet their needs. Among the workers in companies with a works council, some 16% reported that they can live very well off of their salary, while 41% indicated that their pay is completely sufficient; conversely, 40% of respondents in this category reported that their pay is only barely sufficient, while 3% indicated that it is not sufficient. Among the workers in companies without a works council, only 10% reported that they can live very well off of their salary, while 37% indicated that it is completely sufficient; a further 42% of respondents in this group reported that their pay is barely sufficient, while 11% indicated that it is not sufficient.

Even though the differences with respect to the so-called ‘hard’ issues of working conditions are significant, the results should be handled with care: a comparison between these two groups should take into consideration the influence of other factors, such as size of the company, to avoid a distortion of results.



Feelings of security/insecurity

The Working Climate Survey also examines aspects of work which give an insight into workers’ feelings of security or insecurity regarding the central issues of working life. In relation to the issue of pay, the findings reveal two almost equal groups. On the one hand, 49% of the respondents report that their salary is more than sufficient: this percentage comprises 12% of respondents who indicate that they can live very well off of their salary and 37% who report that their salary is completely sufficient. Conversely, some 50% of the respondents cite difficulties with their income levels: more specifically, 41% of the respondents in this group report that their salary is barely sufficient in meeting their needs, while 9% indicate that it is not sufficient.

Based on the respondents’ evaluation of their current income situation, widespread fears are apparent among the workers that their job and the related social security contributions will not provide a sufficient income level in retirement. Only 7% of the respondents expect that they will be able to live very well on their pension, while 25% state that it will be completely sufficient. A further 38% estimate that their pension will be barely sufficient to live on, while 22% expect that their pension will not be sufficient. Therefore, a clear majority of workers (60%) predict that they will have (more or less) difficulties in living on their pension, and only one third (32%) believe that their pension will be more than sufficient in meeting their needs.

A closer look shows that specific groups of workers are particularly affected by this fear concerning the future. More than a quarter (26%) of female workers, compared with 19% of male workers, expect that their pension will not be sufficient; a further 28% of blue-collar workers in private companies expressed this concern, along with 27% of skilled workers and 30% of unskilled workers. A comparatively smaller proportion of 20% of white-collar workers in private companies raised the same concern. With regard to particular sectors, one striking result emerges: in the retail sector, more than a third of all workers (34%) believe that their pension income will not be sufficient, while another 39% expect a barely sufficient income level in their retirement; the remaining 3% in this sector reported that they would be able to live very well on their pension, while 19% considered that their income would be totally sufficient. In contrast, workers in the transport sector reported the highest positive expectations with regard to their future pensions: more specifically, 15% predict that they will live very well on their pension, while a further 38% expect a totally sufficient pension.

The survey also draws attention to the subjective perception of workplace security among workers. Firstly, the respondents were asked about the security level of jobs in Austria in general. Accordingly, some 6% of the respondents perceive job security in Austria as being very secure, 53% as rather secure, 35% as rather insecure and 3% as very insecure (Figure 1). Thus, 38% of the respondents believe that jobs in Austria as a whole are more or less insecure (2% no answer). Unskilled workers and, surprisingly, executives have an above average pessimistic view regarding the security level of jobs in Austria, at 46% and 48% respectively. In relation to executives, this view may be fuelled by recent debates on the relocation of corporate headquarters away from Vienna. In the retail sector, a majority of workers (52%) perceive jobs in Austria to be generally insecure, which is far above the average level of 38%.

The results change, however, when looking at the respondents’ sense of security in relation to their own jobs. Overall, the respondents’ feeling of security regarding their own job is much higher than that for jobs in Austria in general (Figure 1). A clear majority of workers (86%) perceive their own job as being secure, with 27% regarding their job as being very secure and 59% as rather secure. Only 11% regard their own job as being rather insecure, while an almost negligible proportion (1%) perceive their job as being very insecure. Therefore, a different picture emerges when comparing workers’ perception of job security in Austria overall and their perception in relation to their own jobs.

Figure 1: Comparison between workers’ perception of job security in Austria overall and in relation to their own job, 2008 (%)


Source: Working Climate Survey, 2008

In terms of workers’ opportunities in the labour market in the event of job loss, different results emerge. Half of the workers believe that they could easily find a new job in the event of unemployment, with 13% reporting that they could do so very easily and 37% indicating that it would be rather easy to find a new job. Conversely, an almost equal group of workers (48%) predict that it would be difficult for them to find a new job, with 32% reporting that it would be rather difficult to do so and 16% indicating that they would find it very difficult to find a new job (2% gave no answer). Thus, an apparently high number of workers anticipate real difficulties in finding a new job in the labour market. Age also has a strong influence in this respect: in the 40–49 years age group, some 62% of workers expect difficulties in finding a new job, with 44% predicting that it would be rather difficult to do so and 18% anticipating that it would be very difficult. Expectations are even worse among workers aged 50 years and over: 77% stated that it would be difficult to find a new job, with 37% indicating that to do so would be rather difficult and 40% reporting that it would be very difficult. Skill levels also emerge as an influential factor: more specifically, 66% of unskilled workers anticipate difficulties in this respect, with 46% reporting that it would be rather difficult to find a new job and 20% indicating that it would be very difficult to do so. Therefore, even though the majority of workers overall perceive their job as being more or less secure, a considerable proportion expressed feelings of vulnerability in the event of job loss and thus a lack of confidence in their employability.



Work strain

The Working Climate Survey also assesses aspects of employees’ workload. To this end, the survey asked workers to what extent they feel stressed by classical work strains – such as time pressure, psychosocially stressful work, bad health conditions, risk of accident and injury, sense of solitude or isolation in the job, technical and organisational restructuring, and continuous change of work processes and job requirements. The responses are based on a five-point scale, with one indicating the feeling of being heavily stressed and five denoting no stress at all – which is the reverse of the job satisfaction scales. As the results in Table 4 show, time pressure is the most problematic aspect of work strain – although it should be added that the average value of 3.19 indicates a moderate position on the five-point scale. Altogether, some 11% of the respondents stated that they feel heavily stressed by time pressure, while 25% cited no stress in this respect. Overall the mean values for work strain, which range between 3.19 and 4.5 on the scale, indicate that the sense of strain from a high workload is not very high. However, this could be an effect of the five-point scales, where the tendency to choose the middle (neutral) grade is very high.

Table 4: Respondents’ perception of different aspects of work strain, by sex, 2008
This table outlines men’s and women’s sense of strain in relation to different aspects of work.
  Men Women Average
Time pressure 3.05 3.33 3.19
Psychosocially stressful work 3.84 3.88 3.86
Bad health conditions (noise, air, dust, mud, etc) 3.83 4.27 4.05
Risk of accident and injury 3.79 4.31 4.04
Solitude, isolation in the job 4.43 4.58 4.50
Technical and organisational restructuring 3.94 4.24 4.09
Continuous change of work processes and job requirements 3.84 4.09 3.96

Notes: Answers are based on a 5-point scale, where 1 = heavy workload and 5 = no workload at all. Mean values are shown.

Source: Working Climate Survey, 2008

From a gender perspective, an interesting result concerns the fact that women reported lower levels of work strain than men with regard to all aspects of working conditions (Table 4). All of these differences were significant, except in relation to psychosocial stresses, according to the T-test and Levene-test of significance. This could be a reflection of gender segregation in the labour market, particularly with regard to the ‘risk of accident and injury’, ‘bad health conditions such as noise, air, dust and mud’ and ‘technical and organisational restructuring’, where the highest differences can be seen; as women are more concentrated in the services sector, where these strains are less frequent, such a result is not surprising. However, following this argument, one would expect significantly higher levels of ‘psychosocially loaded work’ strains among women, which is not the case either.



Commentary

The Austrian Working Climate Survey reveals some interesting results. Firstly, even though considerable differences are evident between particular groups of workers, job satisfaction is generally high. Nonetheless, considering the results of other working conditions surveys, it appears that job satisfaction itself may not be an ideal indicator for working conditions as such; rather, more detailed questions addressing different aspects of work may also be needed. Secondly, an interesting contrast emerges between people’s perception of their own job security and that of jobs in general in Austria. However, even though a majority of the respondents seem to feel secure in their daily working lives, their current job or the overall economic situation do not inspire feelings of stability and safety among workers for their future. Significantly, their expectations for the future are characterised by fears of insecurity regarding their employability and their situation in retirement.

Manfred Krenn, Working Life Research Centre (Forschungs- und Beratungsstelle Arbeitswelt, FORBA)



Further information

Results from the Austrian Working Climate Survey are regularly published in newsletters, which can be downloaded from the website of the AK.

EF/08/79

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