Are intermediate jobs disappearing? The myth of labour polarisation in Europe

Daniel Oesch, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Giorgio Piccitto, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy

There is no evidence of labour polarisation in Europe. Unlike what has occurred in the United States, in Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and Sweden, there has been an increase in jobs considered “good” – in other words, those with salaries above average, high education demands and social prestige – and “bad” jobs have declined.
Key points
  • 1
       In the European countries considered, employment of greater quality grew by 10 percentage points from the start of the 1990s, when it represented 20% of employment, until 2015, when it reached 30%.
  • 2
       Occupational change in Spain has been more spectacular. In barely 25 years, employment of greater quality has almost doubled, growing by 15 percentage points when salaries, education level and prestige are taken into account.
  • 3
       The research analyses how employment has changed in Germany, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, which exemplify the current variety and group together half of the continent’s population.
Good occupations are growing and bad ones are declining
Good occupations are growing and bad ones are declining

In barely 25 years, in Spain, employment in quality occupations has doubled, growing by 15 percentage points when salaries, education level or prestige are taken into account.

However, even though the pattern is repeated (good occupations grow more and poor ones decline), the change is less pronounced when job satisfaction is analysed. This is understandable if we take into account the fact that Spain is one of the European countries with the lowest levels of job satisfaction, even among workers with well-paid or high-prestige occupations.

Employment quality goes beyond salary

A “good job” is often associated with a “well-paid” job. However, employment quality is a multidimensional phenomenon that it is hard to reduce exclusively to salaries. For that reason, here a broader focus is adopted in which four employment quality indicators are incorporated:

  1. Median income for the occupation.

  2. Education level.

  3. Occupational prestige.

  4. Worker job satisfaction.

Classification

Authors

Daniel Oesch , University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Giorgio Piccitto , Bocconi University, Milan, Italy

Tags

Subject areas

Related content

Infodata

Difficulties of families related with housing

54.5% of single-parent households have no capacity to tackle unforeseen expenses. What type of material shortages do other households have?

Barometer

Percentage of children aged below 6 years that are at risk of poverty

Infodata

Unemployment as a key factor in situations of poverty and social exclusion

Major differences exist in unemployment rates depending on age and nationality. Almost half of Spaniards aged below 25 years were unemployed in 2016.

Review

Between complacency and a self-defeating dream

The two books reviewed share concerns regarding the decline of the USA and show the problems facing the country. From different perspectives, both reach the same diagnosis regarding American society and the danger that threatens democracy.

Article

Employment situation and family background in Europe during the crisis: we are not all equal

What is the relationship between social background and quality of employment? We analyse whether, independently of education, family background is a conditioning factor in finding a good job and whether the crisis has influenced this situation.

You may also find interesting

Report

The redistributive effects of special taxes

The redistributive effects of special taxes

Social Inclusion

The aim of excise duties is to reduce the negative impact on society of specific consumption, such as fuels or tobacco. This report shows that they are regressive in their current design.

Article

More female employment than ever, but the gender gap persists

More female employment than ever, but the gender gap persists

Social Inclusion

The gender gap in employment prior to covid-19 stood at around 16.5%. This article assesses the impact of economic crises and analyses the evolution of female employment between 1980 and 2017.

Article

Employed but poor

Employed but poor

Social Inclusion

“In-work poverty” has the greatest impact on women and young people, and this was the case before the covid-19 crisis. This article shows that between 2010 and 2014, the median wage fell by 5.2%.