Impact of economic crisis on job satisfaction

Starting with the meltdown of the financial markets, the global economic crisis has reached the real economy. The latest wave of the Working Climate Survey shows how this development is perceived by employees in Austria. Optimism among employees regarding Austria’s economic future has declined, although many workers viewed positively the economic future of their company. Moreover, job satisfaction among workers with a migration background is relatively low.

The Working Climate Survey in Austria is an ongoing telephone-based survey of employees that aims to analyse the perception of workers regarding economic and social change as well as their workplace situation. The survey is based on a representative sample of 900 interviewees. The half-yearly interview waves of the last year allow for an analysis of the development of workers’ perceptions in light of the global economic crisis.

Decreasing optimism regarding economic future

It is not surprising that overall scepticism in relation to Austria’s economic future has been rising. Whereas in the spring of 2008 some 81% of the interviewees in the Working Climate Survey expressed an optimistic view of the economic future, in the autumn of the same year only 72% of respondents did so. The group most affected by this decline in optimism are employees in business services, a sector with considerable increases in employment in recent years. Within a few months, the degree of optimism among workers in this sector declined by 17 percentage points from 80% to 63% (see figure). In this regard, employees in the construction sector followed closely behind with a decrease in optimism of 16 percentage points, followed by employees in tourism with a decline of 13 percentage points.

It is interesting to note that the decrease in optimism is also very distinctive among public sector employees (13%), as employment in the public sector is generally considered to be highly ‘crisis-proof’. Besides civil servants, this group also includes employees in postal services and railways, who have been confronted with privatisation plans. Surprisingly, there is no change in optimism regarding the economic future among employees in the retail sector: both in the spring and autumn of 2008, 75% of respondents expressed optimism.

Optimism of employees regarding economic future, by sector, 2008 (%)

Optimism of employees regarding economic future, by sector, 2008 (%)

Source: Working Climate Survey, spring and autumn 2008

Optimism of employees regarding economic future, by sector, 2008 (%)

The increasing overall pessimism regarding Austria’s economic future has not affected to the same extent the perspectives of employees regarding the company for which they work. In the spring of 2008, 87% of the interviewees expected the economic future of their company to be positive and in the autumn of 2008 this rate only decreased slightly to 84% of respondents.

The survey also highlighted a considerable difference with regard to the estimation of job opportunities according to age. Among younger workers of up to 25 years of age, the rate of those who believe that they would find an adequate new job in the case of unemployment increased from 30% in the spring of 2008 to 34% in the autumn of the same year. In the same period, the rate of pessimism with regard to job prospects in the case of unemployment among workers aged above 45 years declined from 76% to 69%. Even though this is an unexpected development, it must be considered that 69% of older workers are pessimistic with regard to their employment chances in the event of job loss; this proportion is more than twice that of younger workers.

Low job satisfaction among workers with migration background

For the first time, the Working Climate Survey revealed findings for workers with a migration background, a category that includes workers who were born abroad or whose parents were. The analysis shows that the job satisfaction of workers with a migration background is significantly lower than that of Austrian nationals without a migration background – that is, Austrian-born employees with parents born in Austria. Whereas within the second group 87% of the interviewees stated that they are satisfied with their job, the same is true for only 64% of workers with a Turkish background, 69% of workers with a middle or eastern European background, 72% of workers with an (ex)Yugoslavian background and 75% of workers with a German background.

The survey also reveals discrimination of workers with a migration background with regard to possibilities for further training. Only 40% of those with a Turkish background are satisfied with their possibilities for further training, compared with 50% of those with another migration background and 65% of Austrian nationals without a migration background.

Commentary

The analysis clearly shows that the global economic crisis is reflected in the decrease of optimism about the economic future, which is not a particularly surprising outcome. However, it is interesting to note that this increasing overall pessimism did not affect employees’ perception of the economic development of the company for which they work – this may be considered a type of self-protective mechanism. Another surprising result is that, in the current economic crisis, older workers aged 45 years or more were less pessimistic regarding their job chances in the case of unemployment than half a year before, even though the level of pessimism in this group of workers remains high (69%).

The results also highlight the discrimination of workers with a migration background regarding job satisfaction in general and in terms of possibilities for further training in particular. Moreover, a significant difference is apparent among workers with a migration background with regard to their country of origin.

Manfred Krenn, FORBA

Useful? Interesting? Tell us what you think. Hide comments

Eurofound welcomes feedback and updates on this regulation

Add new comment