PrOPEL Hub colleagues, Rhys Davies and Alan Felstead, both of the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research and Data based at Cardiff University, presented their findings on job quality to the Wales Productivity Forum. Large infrastructure projects – such as HS2 – or investment in R&D are often considered to be among the main drivers of productivity. However, there is mounting theoretical and empirical evidence that much broader processes are involved. One of these is the link between job quality and productivity with features of job quality, such as employee involvement, being strongly associated with higher levels of workplace innovation.
Against this background, the results of the study suggest that there are some grounds for optimism. The study analyses the answers given by almost 100,000 people to a quiz carried out either side of the pandemic (www.howgoodismyjob.com). The results show that workers have: more ability to decide when to start and stop work; greater scope to take time off; more supportive managers; less work pressure; exercise more say in job-related decisions; better promotion prospects; and increased job security. However, levels of task discretion have fallen and the requirement to learn on-the-job has barely changed. On the whole, the evidence suggests that job quality has got better since the pandemic. However, these improvements have not benefited everyone and, of course, wages have failed to keep up with the cost of living.
The results also suggest that the spread of remote working to a wider range of occupations has prompted improvements to some elements of job quality. Remote working allows workers more autonomy over their working time, both in terms of when to start and stop work as well as the ability to take time off. It also is associated with increased levels of managerial support as employers put more effort into making remote working work. In addition, we find that the increased prevalence of remote working is associated with increased job security. This reflects other evidence which demonstrates that employers are increasingly offering jobs on a remote working basis in order to attract and retain workers.