Job quality: conceptual and methodological challenges for comparative analysis

Piasna, A., Burchell, B., Sehnbruch, K., & Agloni, N. (2017). Job quality: conceptual and methodological challenges for comparative analysis.


International development agencies such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and individual governments have traditionally been more concerned with the quantity of jobs – as measured by the rate of unemployment, or the rate of participation in the labour market – than the quality of available positions (Muñoz de Bustillo et al., 2011; OECD, 2014; Sehnbruch, 2006). Much early psychological research on unemployment (e.g. Jahoda, 1982) tended to reinforce this simple model of a job being a good thing and unemployment a bad thing. But more recent research has taken a more nuanced approach, demonstrating that poor-quality jobs characterised, for instance, by high demands, low control over decision-making, high job insecurity or workplace bullying might have worse psychosocial effects on individuals than experiences of unemployment (Burchell, 1992; Butterworth et al., 2011; Warr, 1987). One of Jill Rubery’s most original and policy-orientated reports in recent years was Smith et al. (2013), in which she used, for the first time, the concept of job quality, in a holistic manner, to explore gender differences in working conditions. However, progress towards articulating job quality in public policy, in terms of not only overarching principles but also concrete actions, has been slow. One important impediment has been the conceptual confusion and the lack of a shared definition to inform both research and policy

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