Job quality

09 July 2019

Job quality complements measures of job quantity to provide an assessment of employment strategy. Job quality is a multidimensional concept where different policy agenda and disciplines emphasise different dimensions.

In Eurofound ‘s research, job quality is measured at the level of the job. It includes job features captured from an objective perspective, which can be observed and are related to meeting people’s needs from work. It is made up of all the characteristics of work and employment that have been proven to have a causal relationship with health and well-being. Positive and negative features of the jobs are included. These indicators reflect the job resources (physical, psychological, social or organisational aspects) and job demands, or the processes that influence them.

EU context

Job quality and its improvement is an important policy concern, as quality jobs are crucial for higher labour force participation, higher well-being and increased economic performance. Job quality is also a key component in making work sustainable and enabling workers to remain motivated to remain in work for longer. It is central to the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda, the OECD’s jobs strategy and to the European Union’s quality of work policies to create more and better jobs. For workers, for the enterprises and organisations that employ them and for societies, there are benefits associated with high-quality jobs, and costs associated with poor-quality jobs.  

Research

Eurofound aims to consolidate the position of its European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) as an important tool for benchmarking job quality in the European Union and beyond, feeding into policy development in the area of quality of work. The data have been used to carry out further research on various topics linked to job quality, including job quality in different work situations, job quality of different groups in the labour market, the impact of job quality on quality of working lives and in-depth analysis of individual dimensions of job quality. Recent research has also looked into job quality in a global perspective.

Working conditions survey: Job quality indices

Eurofound’s EWCS 2015, the sixth edition of the survey, provides an in-depth account of people’s current experience of work in Europe and an overview of working lives through the lens of job quality. The survey gathered detailed data on almost every aspect of working life, from working time to relationships with colleagues to opportunities for training. 

To explore what the data say about job quality, Eurofound developed seven indices representing different dimensions of job quality, based on aspects of work that have an independent influence on health and well-being. These are:

  • Physical environment
  • Work intensity
  • Working time quality
  • Social environment
  • Skills and discretion
  • Prospects
  • Earnings

Those jobs that scored similarly on the seven job quality indices were grouped together in five job quality profiles: High flying, Smooth running, Active manual, Under pressure, Poor quality.

The data show a diverse and heterogeneous labour market, where one in five workers has a 'poor quality' job.

The seventh edition of the EWCS is planned for 2020.

Working conditions in a global perspective

Using EWCS data, Eurofound has collaborated with the ILO on a pioneering project to provide a comparative analysis of job quality covering approximately 1.2 billion workers in Europe, Asia and the Americas. It analyses the seven dimensions of job quality, finding both important differences and similarities between countries.

How different groups fare on job quality

Eurofound’s policy brief on women in management uses EWCS data to look at the diversity of job quality in management positions, analysing whether the working conditions of managers are better than those of non-managers and whether they are similar for women and men. Research on working conditions of workers of different ages examines the role of job quality and other work-related factors in workers’ decisions and ability to remain in paid employment. Other research on working time patterns for sustainable work examines from a gender and life course perspective the links between working time patterns and organisation, working time quality and work–life balance, and health and well-being. 

Determinants of job quality: Employment status, working time patterns 

Eurofound’s policy brief on employment status uses EWCS data to investigate the job quality associated with different employment statuses in the EU Member States. The research explores the working conditions of five categories of self-employed and analyses their job quality. 
Other research examines the working conditions and job quality associated with ICT-based mobile work and the impact of this form of work on quality of working lives. 

Impact of job quality

Research on working conditions and workers’ health examines the interplay between job demands and job resources which support workers in greater engagement and well-being. In terms of reconciling work and life, Eurofound examines the reciprocal relations between working conditions and job quality and people’s lives outside work, and what is most important for people in terms of work–life balance

Labour market change and job quality

Eurofound’s European Jobs Monitor (EJM) tracks structural change in European labour markets. It describes shifts in employment at Member State and EU level, analysing changes in terms of occupation and sector and the implications for job quality.

Key messages

  • Job quality can be supported by a wide-ranging set of policies and actions at EU level, by national authorities and social partners, and within companies aimed at addressing the issues raised in the EWCS analysis of job quality indices and profiles and that support workers throughout their working lives.
    Publication: Sixth European Working Conditions Survey – Overview report 
  • Job quality can be improved by reducing excessive demands on workers and limiting their exposure to risks – and also by increasing their access to work resources that help in achieving work goals or mitigate the effects of these demands. Each dimension of job quality can also be improved through workplace practices and policies.
    Publication: Working conditions and workers’ health 
  • Workers and employers and their organisations each have a role to play in improving job quality; social dialogue is critical for devising policies in the workplace and beyond. Public authorities should regulate with the common goal of improving job quality in mind.
    Publication: Working conditions in a global perspective
  • Being a manager is challenging for both women and men. To increase the attractiveness of managerial positions, job quality for all managers needs to be improved. Linked to this are difficulties in achieving a satisfactory work–life balance. Addressing the working time and work–life balance needs of managers increases the attractiveness of this function and also makes working as a manager more sustainable.
    Publication: Women in management: Underrepresented and overstretched?
  • As some employment statuses are linked to poorer quality jobs, labour market policies aimed at addressing global economic competitiveness and combating high unemployment rates hence need to consider the potential effects for job quality.
    Publication: Does employment status matter for job quality? 

Data and resources

 

Ongoing work

 

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