European Job Quality Index 2005-2015 – ‘Bad jobs’ recovery?

Where available, data for 2015 are used, with the small exception of collective interest representation for which we use the nearest available year (for most countries, 2013). Moreover, an overview of changes in the JQI over the last decade (2005-2015) is provided. We analyse the six dimensions of job quality separately and present a synthetic measure which combines all six.

The most common pattern of change in job quality in the EU over the last decade is decline, in consequence of the post-2008 crisis, followed by modest improvement. Overall, non-wage job quality has worsened over the most recent decade in the EU28. Pre-crisis real wage growth considerably slowed down after 2010, while in-work poverty amplified between 2010 and 2015 at EU level. A worrying development is that, in many aspects of job quality, the worst performing countries have seen a further deterioration. As a result, divergence rather than upwards convergence has taken place. Therefore, the resumed growth in employment levels following the post-2008 jobs crisis has been, to some extent, a ‘bad jobs’ recovery, marked by a return to non- standard forms of employment and with average levels of job quality in the EU remaining below pre-crisis levels.

On a positive note, the results support the view that job quality and job quantity can go hand-in-hand. There is a strong positive relationship between employment rates and overall job quality at country level, while countries with a lower quality of jobs also note higher rates of unemployment. Moreover, when looking at aggregate level, we find positive synergies between various valued features of jobs. Among others, high levels of collective interest representation are associated with higher wages, better outcomes in terms of skills and career development, and better quality of working conditions.

The Job Quality Index, at a high level of aggregation, allows for an easy yet comprehensive assessment of levels and trends in job quality. However, a closer look at each dimension, or at the results for different groups of workers (here considered in terms of gender and sector), paints a more nuanced picture. For instance, women work in jobs with better working conditions and a better quality of working time; but women are still paid much less than men and they work in less secure jobs, are more often involuntarily in atypical forms of work and have less scope for skills and career development and less access to collective interest representation.

Overall, this update of the Job Quality Index confirms that a complex phenomenon such as job quality can and should be measured. In EU employment policy, the quality of jobs remains a contested concept which has not sufficiently penetrated policy formulation, monitoring and evaluation. What is needed is a clear definition and synthetic measurement of job quality that clearly indicates the desired direction of change and the policy steps necessary to achieve it. With this update of the JQI, we deliver such an empirical tool to the policy debate on job quality at EU and national level.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) – ‘Bad jobs’ recovery? European Job Quality Index 2005-2015 / Working Papers / Publications / Home


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