Job quality in turbulent times An update of the European Job Quality Index, Agnieszka Piasna (ETUI, 2023)

The update of the European Job Quality Index (JQI) reveals some worrying developments, with several well-performing countries noting a drop to the bottom of the country ranking such as, for instance, Greece, Spain and France in terms of working conditions.

As recent debates in France have shown, many issues - starting from pension reform and extending to the quality of work, the effects of the financial and economic crisis of 2008, the Covid-19 pandemic and the sanitary measures that have accelerated the technological and digital transition, as well as the energy and cost of living crises - are having an ongoing and significant impact on the quality of jobs. This makes a monitoring of the developments in job quality a pressing issue.
 
The European Job Quality Index is built around six main dimensions: (1) income quality; (2) forms of employment and job security; (3) working time and work-life balance; (4) working conditions; (5) skills and career development; (6) collective interest representation. Since its creation by ETUI researchers 15 years ago, it has been considered as one of the most relevant tools for comparing the quality of the jobs held by workers across EU countries and is capable of analysing trends in job quality over time.
 
This study documents a broad picture of changes in job quality in the EU, showing how the relative position of countries on different dimensions of job quality has evolved since 2005, with some worrying developments for countries such as Greece, Spain and France in terms of working conditions. The study also shows a strong and positive correlation between the quality of jobs and the level of employment at country level.
 
The growing recognition that the quality of jobs is central to tackling the rising social and economic challenges reinforces the need to put job quality firmly on the EU social policy agenda. This will ensure socially beneficial outcomes of the ongoing structural transformations and provide a route to recovery from perpetual crisis,’ said Agnieszka Piasna, Senior Researcher at the European Trade Union Institute.
 
No apparent regional clustering of countries

Income quality, which measures the predictability and adequacy of earnings rather than wage levels, clearly distinguishes Bulgaria, Romania and Greece, followed by most of central, eastern and southern Europe, from the Nordic countries, Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. This is worrying in that it reproduces the ranking based on wage levels – with two notable exceptions, France and Ireland, where income quality is below the EU average – suggesting that low earnings also tend to be less predictable, creating a vicious circle of more precarious livelihoods in several Member States.
 
What is striking about the quality of working conditions is that, unlike most other dimensions of the Job Quality Index, there is no apparent regional clustering of countries along employment or welfare state regime. Looking at changes in working conditions over time, three countries – the Netherlands, Estonia and Germany – emerge as relatively consistent champions while Cyprus confirms its relatively poor performance. The biggest improvements over time are noted in Italy, Denmark and Austria while Spain, France and Greece have all experienced a steady decline in the quality of working conditions.

Read the full publication here.