Decades of social science research has shown that a high quality of working life involves more than having a sufficient wage that is reasonably secure. The nature of the work itself also matters. However, little is known about how job quality – defined multidimensionally to include both economic and intrinsic aspects of work – is structured in the labour market, nor how occupational position relates to the chances of achieving high job-related wellbeing.
We are a group of academic researchers mapping how occupation – one’s field of work – relates to the quality of working life in Britain by analysing decades of large-scale survey data. The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Secondary Data Analysis Initiative.
So why do we focus on occupations? There are at least three reasons:
- Occupational mobility is very low (we tend to stay in the same field of work for many years), thus the occupational quality structure pertains to the quality of working life over many years within careers;
- Occupations are an easy to understand and readily relatable unit of analysis, making disparities in the quality of working life more visible and transparent for policy and the general public;
- Occupations are measured in many existing datasets meaning we can make inferences about the
changing structure of job quality in datasets that collected occupation information but not job quality.
Key research questions
- What is the structure of ‘occupational quality’?
- How does occupational quality influence individuals’ subjective wellbeing over the life course?
- Is mobility across the occupational quality structure an effective means of improving the quality of working life?
- To what extent does the workplace moderate the effect of occupational quality?