This paper questions the view that jobs in Britain are on average of low quality relative to those in comparator nations in Europe. Using the European Labour Force Survey and a new comparative survey by the European Foundation for Living and Working Conditions, I investigate four core dimensions of job quality: monthly earnings, the prospects of a job (security and promotion prospects), intrinsic job quality (skills, social relationships, environmental factors, work intensity) and working time quality. I find that:
- On the down side, British workplaces are exceptional in that monthly earnings are much more unequal than elsewhere in Europe.
- Yet, in terms of the three other core dimensions of job quality Britain’s jobs are not unduly unequal, unless one chooses to compare with a Nordic country.
- Moreover, on average Britain has quite high job quality in all four dimensions, consistent with, though not necessarily caused by, its comparative affluence.
- The much cited proposition that “Britons work the longest hours in Europe” is a myth. When all workers are properly included, Britain’s average work week in 2011 ranked 23rd out of 27 EU countries. The kernel of truth behind the proposition is that male full-time employees worked the longest hours. Even so, a relatively high proportion of jobs in Britain offer employees flexibility in their work hours.
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