The overall objective of this project is to explore an occupational approach to mapping, understanding, and improving the quality of working life drawing upon sociological theories of stratification. These theories suggest that the quality of working life is to a large extent determined by occupation—one’s field of work (e.g., sales assistant, care assistant, marketing manager, secondary school teacher).

This project comes at a time when public interest in the quality of working life has intensified, culminating in the government commissioning ‘Good work: The Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices’. Government policy now recognises that a high quality of working life involves more than having a sufficient wage that is reasonably secure. Decades of academic research has demonstrated that work tasks that involve continuous learning, that make the most of one’s skills, that are to a large extent controlled by the worker performing them, and that are not overly demanding – are all associated with high job-related wellbeing.

There remains, however, significant knowledge gaps regarding how occupational position relates to the chances one will experience a high or low quality of working life (defined in terms of more than pay and security). These are critical issues to understanding and developing pathways to improving the quality of working life, having implications for the appropriate statistical tools needed to map it, for job growth and mobility policies, for practitioners whose job it is to manage workplace wellbeing (e.g., the HR profession), and for working individuals themselves.

The project has four main objectives:

  1. Map how the key dimensions of job quality are clustered across the occupational structure. The main academic literature informing occupational approaches has tended to focus on only single dimensions of mainly economic aspects of job quality (e.g. occupational class, occupational wage deciles), whereas the contemporary policy and academic focus on job quality is multidimensional (including pay, but also autonomy, work pressure, etc.). We are developing a new occupational classification that reflects job quality defined in a multidimensional way.
  2. Map how job-related wellbeing evolves over the working life based upon occupational quality.
  3. Map how occupational mobility might improve the quality of working life.
  4. Map how the workplace might moderate job quality and job-related wellbeing across occupational quality categories.

You can find out more about the research findings here.

You can find out more about the researchers here.

The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Secondary Data Analysis Initiative.