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Working conditions and sustainable work: An analysis using the job quality framework

Cover of Report

Author(s):

Biletta, Isabella; Cabrita, Jorge; Eiffe, Franz Ferdinand; Gerstenberger, Barbara; Parent-Thirion, Agnès; Vargas Llave, Oscar; Weber, Tina

 

Key findings

  • On average, workers in the EU enjoy better working conditions today than at the beginning of the millennium. Working time quality has clearly improved, but also the physical environment is better, especially where it counts most: in occupations with high exposure to physical risks.
  • Jobs today require more skills and offer more autonomy than in the past. This is reflected in an improvement of the Skills and discretion index.
  • The development of workers’ skills is hampered by unequal access to and uptake of employer-paid training. Older workers participate less in training, and there is a growing gap in access between employees with different contractual statuses (full-time versus part-time and permanent versus fixed-term contracts).
  • Persisting gender segregation in the labour market is reflected in differences in job quality between men and women. But there is no overall winner. Gender gaps can also be to the detriment of men, for example regarding the physical environment.
  • While career prospects have generally improved for men and women, men have maintained their advantage in this dimension of job quality. The unequal sharing of care responsibilities, manifested in longer career breaks and different working time arrangements for women, are the likely cause.

     

Abstract

This flagship report summarises the key findings of Eurofound’s research on working conditions conducted over the programming period 2017–2020. It maps the progress achieved since 2000 in improving working conditions and examines whether all workers have benefited equally from positive change. It highlights which groups are the most at risk of experiencing poor working conditions and being left behind. Given the changes in the world of work, emerging challenges for good job quality are identified. The report also provides evidence for measures that could lead to the further improvement of work and the achievement of fair working conditions for all in the EU.

The analysis shows that, overall, job quality in the EU is improving, if slowly. Not all workers are benefiting to the same extent, however. Furthermore, gender, age and contractual status have a significant bearing on a person’s working conditions. And while digitalisation helps to address some job quality issues, it also creates new challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated trends, reinforcing concerns and highlighting the importance of achieving job quality for all.