Employment status and job quality

Employment and job quality
  Working conditions

2019 – Eurofoundhaspublisheda working paper on the relation between the employment status of workers and their job quality and quality of working life.

A secondary analysis is done on the  EWCS- data (European Working Condition Survey).

The report includes the following employment statuses:

  • standard employment status: waged employment on a permanent and full time basis;
  • fixed-term contract of less than one year;
  • fixed-term contract of more than one year;
  • independent self-employed without employees;
  • dependent self-employed without employees;
  • non-standard contracts/all other contracts;
  • self-employed with employees (employers).

In all forms part time work may occur, either voluntary or non-voluntary.

Some results
. Permanent waged employment is still the norm. Since 1970’s however employment statuses have started to diversify. Workers with a permanent contract are older, higher educated and earn more than the rest.
Non-standard employment statuses (including non-voluntary part time work) are more prevalent among young, primary educated and low income groups.
Part time work is increasing in all European members states.
The group of self-employed without employees is growing, especially in the southern European countries; there are both young and old as well as higher and lower educated people in this group.
Different employment statuses experience different degrees of job quality. People who have worked in a fixed-term contract for a longer period of time experience higher work load, lower quality of social environment, lower skills and discretion, less chance of receiving training, poorer working time quality, less job security and less employment prospects.
The pattern is very similar but more pronounced for short-term fixed contracts.
Dependent and independent self-employed have poorer employment prospects, lower skill discretion, worse physical and social working conditions and a higher workload and job-stress, compared to other employment statuses. Self-employed with employees experience relatively good job quality.
Workers in part time-employment report poorer social climate, less training facilities, skills and discretion, less job security and poorer employment prospects; but they assess their physical and social working conditions of better quality, have less job-stress and are more positive about their working times.
Country variation in the relation between employment status and job quality can largely be explained by differences in labour market performance and working class power (showing the importance of social dialogue).
The quality of working life – as dependent variable in this research – is people’s subjective assessment of their working situation. It includes concepts such as health and wellbeing, work life balance, financial security, satisfaction with working conditions and sustainability of work. Compared to workers with a permanent contract, workers with a fixed-term contract experience more financial problems, adverse social behavior and more risks for health and safety. Especially those with a short fixed-term contract. Dependent self-employed workers also score badly on many indicators of quality of working life; however they are more motivated for their job than people with a fixed-term contract. Independent self-employed workers have more financial problems, experience problems in combining work and private tasks and have a lower self-rated health than permanent employees; but they are higher motivated for their work, have a higher commitment and are less often absent from work.
Self-employed with employees score better over all but do have a problematic work-private interference.
People who voluntary work part time have a better over all score for quality of working life than permanent workers.  The opposite is the case for those who work part time involuntarily; they perform badly on all quality of working life outcomes. 

Policy pointers
1. The EC Council Directive 1999 on fixed-term work aims to improve the working conditions for these employees by the principle of ‘non-discrimination’ and prevention of abuse by use of successive fixed-term employment contracts. The directive can be improved by
a.  exceptions for sectors need to be formulated with more consideration;
b. the ground to which the principles of non-discrimination should apply, need to be specified;
c. the ideal maximum duration of a fixed-term employment contract should be stated more clearly.

2. For the proposal for a Directive for ‘transparent and predictable working conditions’ and the proposal for protection for all workers the researchers recommend:
a. allow member-states for voluntary expansions of social protection packages and shorten the qualifying periods for unemployment and sickness benefits;
b. apply a minimum social security system which can provide income support for all including the self-employed.

3. The Council Directive on part time work aims to apply the principle of non-discrimination and to facilitate the development of voluntary part time work. This directive should be accepted by all member states. The grounds on which to base ‘non-discrimination’ need to be defined more carefully.

4. Social dialogue can be much more encouraged at the national level in some member states. Moreover trade unions need to be inclusive and strengthened. Additional financial resources (f.e. EU funds) could further strengthen social dialogue.


Jossie Gevaert, Deborah De Moortel, Christophe Vanroelen. (2018) Eurofound, working paper. WPEF18005.
The report (pdf) is attached.

Themes: Labour relations, Flexible organisation
Sector: n.a.
Source: Research report