Working life has come to permeate every domain of life. Characteristics once thought to affect only the job domain have become important determinants of how people assess their daily lives. This article explores the influence of job characteristics on satisfaction with several life domains in 28 EU countries, asking: 1) What is the relationship between job characteristics and satisfaction with work and other domains of life? 2) Is the job domain more important for life satisfaction than other domains of life? Additionally, we apply a domains-of-life perspective to investigate possible differences in these relationships between high- and low-skilled workers, using data on white-collar workers from the third European Quality of Life Survey (3EQLS) and multiple Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regressions to estimate the models.Work–life balance and perceived job (in)security emerge as important determinants of satisfaction regarding all domains and both types of workers studied. Satisfaction in the work domain ranks fourth in contributing to overall life satisfaction, after the standard of living, family life and social life domains. This relatively low direct contribution to life satisfaction of the work domain is particularly visible among low-skilled workers. We conclude with a discussion of the implications for workers’ wellbeing of the increasing insecurity in the job market and the fact that meaning is often sought through work despite the effects of poor work–life balance on most life-domains.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Following Gough and McGregor (2007) we understand “wellbeing” as an umbrella term comprehending both objective and subjective approaches. Concerning subjective wellbeing, we draw on Diener (1984) and Diener et al. (1999) in considering its hedonic and cognitive dimensions, the former linked to positive and negative effects and the latter to life satisfaction.
The transformation from mass production to flexible production, characteristic of the post-Ford era, has also altered the political and economic structure of society and its production systems. Thompson (2003) found that flexible production dramatically reduced the demand for unskilled labour, requiring workers with flexible specialization and multi-skilled (social and technical skills). The number of unskilled industrial workers has been falling for nearly thirty years. This decrease is reflected in the transformation of the workforce, with the growth of managerial and professional services, and the increase in white-collar jobs to the detriment of blue-collar jobs: towards to a service economy, with a decline in the mass production and manufacturing sectors. This change also implies global competition, flexible production systems, flatter and more flexible organizational structures, with the emphasis on innovation, diversification and subcontracting (Avis 1996; Brown and Lauder 1992).
Legislators, senior officials and managers, professionals and technicians, associate professionals, clerks, service workers, and shop and market sales workers.
Eurostat Labour force data: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/lfs/data/ accessed 06/12/2017.
Knowledge workers’ are defined as a new type of white-collar workers who generally possess higher academic degrees, greater skill levels or knowledge, working in the three highest standard occupational classifications (managers, professionals, associate professionals) (Huang 2011).
For an exhaustive list of life domains used in other studies see Loewe et al. (2014, pp. 74–75).
“Post-Fordism” refers to the dominant system of economic production, consumption, and associated socioeconomic phenomena in most industrialized countries since the late twentieth century. It describes an approach to work organization that relies on flexibility, adaptation and innovation (Heery and Noon 2008).
For an exhaustive list of life domains used in other studies see Loewe et al. (2014, pp. 74–75).
ISCO detailed classification: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/stat/isco/index.htm [accessed 29/01/18].
Structural equation modelling is an umbrella term that incudes ‘methodologies that seek to represent hypotheses about the means, variances and covariances of observed data in terms of a smaller number of ‘structural’ parameters defined by a hypothesized underlying model’ (Kaplan, 2009, p. 1). In our study, all variables (independent, control and dependent variables) are observed – and not psycho-social constructs or latent variables, which are the type of variables SEM was designed to model (Nachtigall et al., 2003). The literature on subjective wellbeing has examples of studies using SEM (Loewe et al. 2014; Rode and Near 2005) when the dependent variables were not observed and the study of particular paths was not the aim of the research. Two-step models were preferred when all subjective wellbeing variables were observed and the goal was to examine particular relationships – as in the case in this paper, which focuses on the role of work-related variables.
“The semi-logarithm specification implies diminishing returns to any domain satisfaction, an increasing marginal rate of substitution between satisfaction in any two domains, and concavity of life satisfaction in domains” (Rojas 2007, p. 11).
As we did with the work-life characteristics and satisfaction with domains of life regressions (equations 1), we have estimated the linear regression model in two additional ways in order to assess the robustness of the results. First, by cluster-robust stander errors (CRSE); second, by using a hierarchical linear regression model. The results obtained from CRSE estimation and from using a hierarchical linear model are available upon request.
All models were also estimated using an ordered probit model to check the robustness of the results. The coefficients and significance of the estimators did not differ notably between specifications. Hence, following Rojas (2007) we decided to maintain the OLS specification.
Percentage of temporary employees in 2017, data from Eurostat, Employment and unemployment (LFS) statistics: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/lfs/data/database [accessed 20/05/2018]
See Jeffrey et al. (2014) for additional measures to improve wellbeing at work and overall life satisfaction.
Andrews, F. M., & Withey, S. B. (1976). Social indicators of well-being: Americans’ perceptions of life quality. Springer Science & Business Media.
Argyle, M., & Martin, M. (1991). The psychological causes of happiness. Subjective well-being : An interdisciplinary perspective, 77–100.
Avis, J. (1996). The myth of the post-Fordist society. Knowledge and Nationhood, 71–82.
Batinic, B., Selenko, E., Stiglbauer, B., & Paul, K. I. (2010). Are workers in high-status jobs healthier than others? Assessing Jahoda’s latent benefits of employment in two working populations. Work & Stress, 24(1), 73–87.
Brown, P., & Lauder, H. (1992). Education for economic survival: from Fordism to post-Fordism? London, New York: Routledge.
Bujacz, A., Bernhard-Oettel, C., Rigotti, T., Magnusson Hanson, L., & Lindfors, P. (2017). Psychosocial working conditions among high-skilled workers: A latent transition analysis. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology., 23, 223–236. https://doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000087.
Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., & Rodgers, W. L. (1976). The quality of American life: Perceptions, evaluations, and satisfactions. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Clark, A. E. (2010). Work, jobs and well-being across the millennium. In E. Diener, D. Kahneman, & J. F. Helliwell (Eds.), International differences in well-being (pp. 436–468). Oxford University Press.
Clark, A. E., & Oswald, A. J. (1996). Satisfaction and comparison income. Journal of Public Economics, 61, 359–381.
Cummins, R. A. (1996). The domains of life satisfaction: An attempt to order chaos. Social Indicators Research, 38(3), 303–328.
Davies, R. (2013). Work-life balance: Measures to help reconcile work, private and family life (130549REV1). Library of the European Parliament.
Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95(3), 542–575.
Diener, E. (1996). Traits can be powerful, but are not enough: Lessons from subjective well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 30(3), 389–399.
Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302.
Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29(1), 94–122.
Drobnič, S., Beham, B., & Präg, P. (2010). Good job, good life? Working conditions and quality of life in Europe. Social Indicators Research, 99(2), 205–225.
Durkheim, E. (1947). The Division of Labor in Society: (translated by George Simpson). New York: Free Press.
Easterlin, R. A. (2006). Life cycle happiness and its sources: Intersections of psychology, economics, and demography. Journal of Economic Psychology, 27(4), 463–482.
Erdogan, B., Bauer, T. N., Truxillo, D. M., & Mansfield, L. R. (2012). Whistle while you work: A review of the life satisfaction literature. Journal of Management, 38(4), 1038–1083.
Eurofound. (2010). Coding and classification standards. Retrieved May 10, 2017, from https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/surveys/ewcs/2005/classification.
Eurofound. (2012). Third European Quality of Life Survey - Quality of life in Europe: Impacts of the crisis. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.
Eurofound. (2014a). European quality of life survey, 2011–2012. [data collection] (2nd ed.). UK Data Service. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. https://doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-7316-2.
Eurofound. (2014b). Occupational profiles in working conditions: Identification of groups with multiple disadvantages. Dublin: Publications Office of the European Union.
Eurofound, & ILO. (2017). Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work. Luxembourg. Geneva: Publications Office of the European Union and the International Labour Office. https://doi.org/10.2806/372726.
Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2010). Happiness and economics: How the economy and institutions affect human well-being. In Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University press.
Gallie, D., & Russell, H. (2009). Work-family conflict and working conditions in Western Europe. Social Indicators Research, 93(3), 445–467.
Gough, I., & McGregor, J. A. (2007). Wellbeing in developing countries. (I. Gough & J. A. McGregor, Eds.). Cambridge University Press.
Headey, B., Veenhoven, R., & Wearing, A. (1991). Top-down versus bottom-up theories of subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 24(1), 81–100.
Heery, E., & Noon, M. (2008). A dictionary of human resource management (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press.
Hsieh, C. (2004). To weight or not to weight: The role of domain importance in quality of life measurement. Social Indicators Research, 68(2), 163–174.
Hsieh, C. (2016). Domain importance in subjective well-being measures. Social Indicators Research, 127(2), 777–792.
Huang, T.-P. (2011). Comparing motivating work characteristics, job satisfaction, and turnover intention of knowledge workers and blue-collar workers, and testing a structural model of the variables’ relationships in China and Japan. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 22(4), 924–944.
Jeffrey, K., Mahony, S., Michaelson, J., & Abdallah, S. (2014). Well-being at work. A review of the literature. New Economics Foundation (NEF). ISBN 978-1-908506-57-3.
Kalleberg, A. L. (2009). Precarious work, insecure workers: Employment relations in transition. American Sociological Review, 74(1), 1–22.
Kézdi, G. (2004). Robust standard error estimation in fixed-effects panel models. Hungarian Statistical Review, Special Number, 9, 95–116.
Layard, R. (2010). Measuring subjective well-being. Science, 327(1989), 534–535.
Loewe, N., Bagherzadeh, M., Araya-Castillo, L., Thieme, C., & Batista-Foguet, J. M. (2014). Life domain satisfactions as predictors of overall life satisfaction among workers: Evidence from Chile. Social Indicators Research, 118(1), 71–86.
Lopes, H., Lagoa, S., & Calapez, T. (2014). Work autonomy, work pressure, and job satisfaction: An analysis of European Union countries. The Economic and Labour Relations Review, 25(2), 306–326.
Maertz, C. P., & Boyar, S. L. (2010). Work-family conflict, enrichment, and balance under “levels” and “episodes” approaches. Journal of Management, 37(1), 68–98.
Marx, K. (1927). Economic and philosophical manuscripts of 1844. Early writings, 333.
Marx, K. (1976). Capital: A critique of political economy volume one. London: Penguin Books.
Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and personality (2nd ed.). New York: Harper & Row New York.
McGinnity, F., & Calvert, E. (2009). Work-life conflict and social inequality in Western Europe. Social Indicators Research, 93(3), 489–508.
Michalos, A. C. (1985). Multiple discrepancies theory (MDT). Social Indicators Research, 16(4), 347–413.
Near, J. P., & Rechner, P. L. (1993). Cross-cultural variations in predictors of life satisfaction: An historical view of differences among west European countries. Social Indicators Research, 29(1), 109–121.
Near, J. P., Rice, R. W., & Hunt, R. G. (1980). The relationship between work and nonwork domains: A review of empirical research. Academy of Management Review, 5(3), 415–429.
Perrons, D. (2003). The new economy and the work-life balance: Conceptual explorations and a case study of new media. Gender, Work and Organization, 10(1), 65–93.
Powdthavee, N. (2010). How much does money really matter? Estimating the causal effects of income on happiness. Empirical Economics, 39(1), 77–92.
Rode, J. C., & Near, J. P. (2005). Spillover between work attitudes and overall life attitudes: Myth or reality? Social Indicators Research, 70(1), 79–109.
Rojas, M. (2006). Life satisfaction and satisfaction in domains of life: Is it a simple relationship? Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(4), 467–497.
Rojas, M. (2007). The complexity of well-being: A life-satisfaction conception and a domains-of-life approach. In I. Gough & J. A. McGregor (Eds.), Well-being in developing countries: From theory to research (pp. 259–280). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Rojas, M. (2008). Relative income and well-being in Latin America. In Report for the Latin American Research Network of the Inter-American Development Bank. Mexico: Puebla.
Sennett, R. (1998). The corrosion of character: The personal consequences of work in the new capitalism. New York and London: Norton.
Silla, I., Gracia, F. J., & Peiró, J. M. (2005). Job insecurity and health-related outcomes among different types of temporary workers. Economic and Industrial Democracy, 26(1), 89–117.
Sirgy, M. J., Widgery, R. N., Lee, D.-J., & Yu, G. B. (2010). Developing a measure of community well-being based on perceptions of impact in various life domains. Social Indicators Research, 96(2), 295–311.
Sousa-Poza, A., & Sousa-Poza, A. A. (2000). Well-being at work: A cross-national analysis of the levels and determinants of job satisfaction. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 29, 517–538.
Thompson, F. (2003). Fordism, post-Fordism and the flexible system of production. Willamette University. https://www.cddc.vt.edu/digitalfordism/fordism_materials/thompson.htm. Accessed 10 May 2017.
van Praag, B. M. S., & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A. (2004). Happiness quantified: A satisfaction calculus approach. Oxford University Press.
van Praag, B. M. S., Frijters, P., & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A. (2003). The anatomy of subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 51(1), 29–49.
Viñas-Bardolet, C., Torrent-Sellens, J., & Guillen-Royo, M. (2018). Knowledge workers and job satisfaction: Evidence from Europe. Journal of the Knowledge Economy. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13132-018-0541-1.
Voicu, B. (2015). Priming effects in measuring life satisfaction. Social Indicators Research, 124(3), 993–1013.
The authors acknowledge the support of a doctoral grant from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, UOC. The article has also benefited from funding for the project Responsible Innovation and Happiness: A New Approach to the Effects of ICTs, supported by the Research Council of Norway and conducted by the Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Viñas-Bardolet, C., Guillen-Royo, M. & Torrent-Sellens, J. Job Characteristics and Life Satisfaction in the EU: a Domains-of-Life Approach. Applied Research Quality Life 15, 1069–1098 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-019-09720-5
- Domains of life satisfaction
- Job satisfaction
- Life satisfaction
- White-collar workers
- Working conditions
- Work–life balance conflict