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Working conditions: new survey reveals deterioration and wide disparities in worker satisfaction

Working conditions: new survey reveals deterioration and wide disparities in worker satisfaction © Shutterstock - Monkey Business Images

While just over half of European workers perceive working conditions in their country to be good (53%),a majority (57%) nevertheless think that their working conditions have deteriorated in the last 5 years, according to a Eurobarometer survey published today, which looks at how the quality of work has been affected by the crisis.

Although most workers are satisfied with their own working conditions (77% on average in the EU), there is a very wide disparity across Member States, ranging from 94% in Denmark to 38% in Greece. Generally, most workers express high levels of satisfaction with their working hours (80%) and health and safety at work (85%).

Divergence in satisfaction levels

The Eurobarometer survey, carried out in the 28 Member States, reveals that:

  • more than 80% of respondents in Denmark, Luxembourg, Finland and The Netherlands consider working conditions in their country to be good. At individual workers' level, Denmark also comes first, with 94% of workers being satisfied of their own conditions at work – Austria and Belgium ranking second with 9 in 10 workers being satisfied, followed closely by Finland (89%), the UK and Estonia (both 88%)
  • on the opposite side, Greece has the lowest rate of satisfaction at country level (16%) and is the only country where fewer than half of working respondents are satisfied with their current conditions (38%)
  • to a lesser extent, levels of satisfaction are lower at country level in Croatia (18%), Spain (20%), Italy (25%), Bulgaria (31%), Slovenia, Portugal and Romania (32% for each), but also in Slovakia (36%) and Poland (38%).

A variety of factors can explain this divergence in satisfaction levels: the social and economic context influenced by the crisis but also more structural features in terms of social dialogue, social policies and labour law, which may be stronger or weaker depending on national situations across the EU.

Room for improvement

Other key findings from the survey indicate that there is room for improvement, notably in the following areas:

  • A number of findings tend to confirm an increase in work intensity. Stress clearly emerges as the most important perceived risk at work (for 53% of working respondents). In addition, dissatisfaction regarding workload, pace of work and long working days (more than 13 hours) is more widespread than other issues such as lack of interest in the tasks or inadequate rest periods on a weekly or annual basis;
  • Regarding work organisation, in relation to work-life balance, 40 % of respondents declare that they are not offered the possibility to use flexible working arrangements;
  • In the area of health and safety at work, less than one in three workers declared that there are measures in place at their workplace to address emerging risks (for example caused by nanotechnologies or biotechnology), or directed to older and chronically ill workers. Together with stress, poor ergonomics is perceived as one of the most important risks at work, with 28% of respondents identifying repetitive movements and tiring or painful positions as a main health and safety risk in their workplace, and 24% lifting, carrying or moving loads on a daily basis.

Upcoming EU conference on working conditions

The results of the Eurobarometer will feed in to discussions on current and future prospects for EU action in the field of working conditions in Brussels on 28 April. The conference will provide an opportunity to discuss how to further develop a consistent and forward-looking approach to working conditions in the EU, to ensure high levels of quality, safety and equity at work.