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Does employment status matter for job quality?

Employers | 08 May 2019 | Written by Katrien De Clercq

Does job quality vary according to employment status? More specifically; is job quality poorer in non-standard forms of work? Let’s explore the links between employment status and working conditions.

Source: Eurofound (2018), Does employment status matter for job quality? , Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Does employment status matter for job quality?

Low quality in non-standard forms

The standard employment status for workers is full-time, permanent employment. Various types of temporary work, part-time work, self-employment and other flexible employment arrangements have become more common in the EU. These other types, non-standard forms of employment, accounted for 33% of the EU workforce in 2015. Many workers would prefer to be full-time, permanently employed but aren’t because they have no other alternative. So, is job quality that low in non-standard forms?

The development of more flexible types of employment has sometimes had negative consequences for employees’ working conditions and labour rights. Therefore, EU has pursued not only the goal of more jobs but also of better jobs for nearly two decades now. Improving the quality of jobs in non-standard forms of employment has become a priority for the European Commission.

Two key initiatives concerning the social protection and working conditions of workers on non-standard contracts were brought forward by the Commission. One is a proposal for a Council recommendation giving workers in non-standard employment and self-employed workers access to social protection (which they often lack due to their employment status). The other is a proposal for a directive on transparent working conditions.

What's the deal?

Let’s compare some of the different working conditions and statuses to see how the cookie really crumbles.

1) Throughout Europe, permanent employment remains the most common employment status and has the most favourable style of working. Permanent contracts are less common among new entrants to the labour market and more common among workers with higher educational attainment. Therefore, a small decline in permanent contracts is the general picture that emerges though it’s still the most popular.

2) Temporary employees experience less favourable working. Compared to permanent employees, they are disadvantaged regarding working time and the flexibility to manage it. But they have less job security and poorer prospects for career advancement. Positive here is that temporary employees with longer-term contracts (those who have fixed-term contracts of more than one year) experience lower work intensity than permanent employees. Temporary employees with short-term contracts (those who have fixed-term contracts of less than one year) have less access to training as well as less latitude to apply their skills and take decisions at work.

3) Solo self-employed workers (workers who do not have employees) of both types (dependent and independent) also experience less favourable social environments compared to permanent employees. However, they have significantly higher scores when it comes to the use of their skills, access to training and ability to operate autonomously.

4)  Employers have better job quality than permanent employees. Although they experience higher levels of work intensity than elsewhere.

What to rememberPermanent employment is still the most dominant employment status throughout the EU, accounting for 66% of employment. But there’s an increase in temporary contracts and other forms of non-standard employment. It is clear that employment status matters for job quality.
  • Self-employment offers advantages in many job quality dimensions for those who start businesses and employ staff.
  • Part-time work can help workers to balance work and private life but has potentially negative consequences for their career prospects and access to training.
  • Protection for workers of non-standard statuses and the self-employed is urgently needed.
  • Employers need to address potential discrimination against temporary and part-time workers in terms of job quality as part of their business strategy and be clear about career prospects and training opportunities during recruitment.
Want to know more about job quality according to different employment statuses ?

Read the full report here.

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