Satisfaction with work and work-life balance
Previous studies have found a long-term decline in job satisfaction over recent decades, attributed to changes in the characteristics of work (Green and Tsitsianis, 2005). Researchers have also identified competing - though not necessarily contradictory - narratives about what may be happening objectively to the quality of employment. On the one hand, the growth of a 'knowledge economy' where employees are increasingly required to work with their heads rather than their hands has been contributing to an improvement in some measures of job quality. On the other, the globalisation of production and markets has exerted downward pressure on the quality of jobs in developed countries like Britain, leading to inevitable decline (Coats and Lehki, 2008).
As shown in Table 6.5, overall levels of satisfaction with work (scored on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is "extremely dissatisfied" and 10 is "extremely satisfied") have been sustained between 2006 and 2010 - and even show a slight increase, from 6.9 to 7.3. In 2006, men were slightly less satisfied with their jobs than women (an average of 6.8 compared with 7.1). Within this figure, the average level of satisfaction with work was similar for both men and women with full-time jobs (6.8), but noticeably higher among women working part-time (7.4). However, we can see that in 2010, the mean scores for men, women, full-time and part-time workers have all converged, (note that the base size for part-time men is less than 100 both in 2006 and in 2010).
It seems that neither the recession, nor the feared impact of globalisation, has yet brought down the overall levels of satisfaction that workers in Britain express about their jobs. In fact, the adverse economic climate may even have bolstered reported satisfaction with current employment among those who have managed to stay in work and appreciate that fact.
Turning to people's views about the wider balance between their jobs and the rest of their lives, the survey also asked people to rate on a scale from 0 to 10:
And how satisfied are you with the balance between the time you spend on your paid work and the time you spend on other aspects of your life?
The bottom three rows of Table 6.5 show us that average overall scores for satisfaction with work-life balance have also increased in recent years (from 6.0 in 2006 to 6.3 in 2010). Satisfaction is highest for women working part-time (7.0), and noticeably lower among women working full-time (5.8). We also see that the increase in overall scores since 2006 is largely attributable to greater satisfaction with work-life balance among women and men in full-time work.
As we might expect, there is a close relationship between job satisfaction and people's satisfaction with their work-life balance. Results from the European Social Survey show this is not only true of Britain. Looking at Figure 6.2 we see
that although average levels of satisfaction with work-life balance vary greatly between 20 different European countries, the association with job satisfaction is remarkably consistent.
Figure 6.2 also strikingly shows that both job satisfaction and satisfaction with work-life balance are lower in Britain than in most other European countries participating in the survey apart from Portugal, Russia and four other former members of the Communist bloc. This is likely to be, in part, the result of the longer (unpaid) working hours culture found in the UK. In 2011, the fourth Work-Life Balance Employee Survey4 found that just under half (48 per cent) of employees in Britain worked overtime in a typical week, with nearly half (44 per cent) of this overtime being unpaid (Tipping et al., 2012).
- Download chapter
- British Social Attitudes and European Social Survey analysis excludes Northern Ireland, whereas OECD data are based on the whole UK. Various terms are used in this chapter to refer to people in paid work (for example, "workers", "people in paid work", and "employed people"). They all denote everyone who is either an employee or is self-employed, who usually works 10 hours or more a week, and who considers work to be their main activity.
- Part-time work was defined as working less than 35 hours per week.
- Bases for Table 6.5 are as follows:
- The fourth Work-Life Balance Employee Survey was conducted by NatCen Social Research for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
- This includes people who say they "always", "often", "sometimes" or "hardly ever" do this, but excludes those who say they "never" do.
- Related links