This article analyzes the determinants of job satisfaction among knowledge workers (KWs). Data from a representative sample of 14,096 employed workers from the European Social Survey (2010) are used for an empirical analysis drawing on multiple binary logistic regression models. Job satisfaction among KWs in 21 EU countries is found to be explained better by non-financial characteristics than by monetary rewards. Career advancement opportunities, flexible work schedules, colleague support, and work–family relations, as well as job security, emerge as central in explaining job satisfaction among KWs in our sample. Unlike the case for other workers (OWs), opportunities for further training and career experience are not determinants of job satisfaction among KWs. Management divisions in companies employing KWs would be well-advised to take these points into account.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
We have excluded Finland due to a filter error in the interviewer phase (European Social Survey 2014, p. 76) of one of the relevant variables.
A detailed list of ISCED codes can be found at the UNESCO website: http://www.uis.unesco.org/Education/Documents/isced-2011-en.pdf [accessed on 3/02/17]
A detailed list of ISCO-88 codes can be found at International Labour Organization website: http://www.ilo.org/public/english/bureau/stat/isco/isco88/alpha.htm [accessed on 3/02/17]
Assuming that national differences in institutional regimes may affect the level of job satisfaction, we define a new variable following Esser and Olsen (2012) and Holman’s (2013) classification of five institutional regimes.
Alvesson, M. (2001). Knowledge work: ambiguity, image and identity. Human Relations, 54, 863–886.
Baccini, A., & Cioni, M. (2010). Is technological change really skill-biased? Evidence from the introduction of ICT on the Italian textile industry (1980–2000). New Technology, Work and Employment, 25(1), 80–93.
Belfield, C. R., & Harris, R. D. F. (2002). How well do theories of job matching explain variations in job satisfaction across education levels? Evidence for UK graduates. Applied Economics, 34, 535–548.
Brinkley, I. (2006). Defining the knowledge economy: knowledge economy programme report. London: The Work Foundation.
Brinkley, I., Fauth, R., Mahdon, M., & Theodoropoulou, S. (2010). Is knowledge work better for us? Knowledge workers, good work and wellbeing. London: Knowledge Economy Programme.
Carayannis, E. G., & Campbell, D. F. J. (2011). Open innovation diplomacy and a 21st century fractal research, education and innovation (FREIE) ecosystem: building on the quadruple and quintuple helix innovation concepts and the “mode 3” knowledge production system. Journal of the Knowledge Economy, 2(3), 327–372.
Carayannis, E. G., Grigoroudis, E., Del Giudice, M., Peruta, M., Della, R., & Sindakis, S. (2017). An exploration of contemporary organizational artifacts and routines in a sustainable excellence context. Journal of Knowledge Management, 21(1), 35–56.
Clark, A. E. (1997). Job satisfaction and gender: why are women so happy at work? Labour Economics, 4(4), 341–372.
Clark, A. E. (2005). Your money or your life: changing job quality in OECD countries. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 43(3), 377–400.
Clark, A. E., & Oswald, A. J. (1996). Satisfaction and comparison income. Journal of Public Economics, 61, 359–381.
Clark, A. E., Oswald, A. J., & Warr, P. (1996). Is job satisfaction U-shaped in age? Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 69(1), 57–81.
Del Giudice, M., Della Peruta, M. R., & Maggioni, V. (2013). Collective knowledge and organizational routines within academic communities of practice: an empirical research on science–entrepreneurs. Journal of the Knowledge Economy, 4(3), 260–278.
Drucker, P. F. (1959). Landmarks of tomorrow: a report on the new post-modern world. New York: Harper & Row.
Drucker, P. F. (1994). Post-capitalist society. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Drucker, P. F. (1999). Knowledge-worker productivity: the biggest challenge. California Management Review, 41(2), 79–94.
Drucker, P. F. (2007). Management challenges for the 21st century. Oxford: Routledge.
Esser, I., & Olsen, K. M. (2012). Perceived job quality: autonomy and job security within a multi-level framework. European Sociological Review, 28(4), 443–454.
European Social Survey. (2010). ESS Round 5: European Social Survey Round 5 Data (Data file edition 3 ed.p. 2). Bergen: Norwegian Social Science Data Services.
European Social Survey. (2014). ESS Round 5: European Social Survey 2010. Documentation Report. Edition 3.2. Bergen: Norwegian Social Science Data Services.
Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A., & Frijters, P. (2004). How important is methodology for the estimates of the determinants of happiness? Economic Journal, 114(1997), 641–659.
Freeman, R. B. (1978). Job satisfaction as an economic variable. American Economic Review, 68(2), 135–141.
Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2002). What can economists learn from happiness research? Journal of Economic Literature, 40(2), 402–435.
Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2010). Happiness and economics: how the economy and institutions affect human well-being. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Gallie, D., & Russell, H. (2009). Work-family conflict and working conditions in Western Europe. Social Indicators Research, 93(3), 445–467.
Green, F. (2010). Well-being, job satisfaction and labour mobility. Labour Economics, 17(6), 897–903.
Hamermesh, D. S. (1977). Economic aspects of job satisfaction. Essays in labor market analysis (pp. 53–72). New York: John Wiley.
Handel, M. J. (2007). Computers and the wage structure. Research in Labor Economics, 26, 155–196.
Holtskog, H. (2015). Defining the characteristics of an expert in a social context through subjective evaluation. Journal of the Knowledge Economy., 8, 1014–1031. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13132-015-0312-1.
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.
Lange, T. (2012). Job satisfaction and self-employment: autonomy or personality? Small Business Economics, 38(2), 165–177.
Mastekaasa, A. (2011). How important is autonomy to professional workers? Professions and Professionalism, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.7577/pp.v1i1.143
McGinnity, F., & Calvert, E. (2009). Work-life conflict and social inequality in Western Europe. Social Indicators Research, 93(3), 489–508.
Mysíková, M., & Večerník, J. (2013). Job satisfaction across Europe: differences between and within regions. Post-Communist Economies, 25(4), 539–556.
OECD. (2003). OECD science, technology and industry scoreboard 2003. Paris: OECD Publishing.
Olsen, K. M. (2016). The power of workers: knowledge work and the power balance in Scandinavian countries. Employee Relations: The International Journal, 38(3), 390–405.
Pereira, M. C., & Coelho, F. (2013). Work hours and well being: an investigation of moderator effects. Social Indicators Research, 111(1), 235–253.
Pernicka, S., & Lücking, S. (2012). How knowledge shapes collective action: professionalism, market closure and bureaucracy in the fields of university and non-university research. Journal of Industrial Relations, 54(5), 579–595.
Pichler, F., & Wallace, C. (2009). What are the reasons for differences in job satisfaction across Europe? Individual, compositional, and institutional explanations. European Sociological Review, 25(5), 535–549.
Pyöriä, P. (2007). Informal organizational culture: the foundation of knowledge workers’ performance. Journal of Knowledge Management, 11(3), 16–30.
Ramírez, Y. W., & Nembhard, D. A. (2004). Measuring knowledge worker productivity. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 5(4), 602–628.
Santoro, G., Ferraris, A., Giacosa, E., & Giovando, G. (2016). How SMEs engage in open innovation: a survey. Journal of the Knowledge Economy. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13132-015-0350-8.
Saint-Paul, G. (2008). Innovation and inequality: how does technical progress affect workers? Princeton: Princeton University Press.
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.
Sulek, J., & Marucheck, A. (1994). The impact of information technology on knowledge workers. Work Study, 43(1), 5–13.
Salvatori, A. (2010). Labour contract regulations and workers’ wellbeing: international longitudinal evidence. Labour Economics, 17(4), 667–678.
Tampoe, M. (1993). Motivating knowledge workers—the challenge for the 1990s. Long Range Planning, 26(3), 49–55.
Torrent-Sellens, J., Velazco-Portocarrero, J., & Viñas-Bardolet, C. (2016). Knowledge-based work and job satisfaction: evidence from Spain. Journal of the Knowledge Economy. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13132-015-0349-1.
Veenhoven, R. (1999). Quality-of-life in individualistic society. Social Indicators Research, 48(2), 159–188.
Wilczyńska, A., Batorski, D., & Torrent-Sellens, J. (2016). Employment flexibility and job security as determinants of job satisfaction: the case of Polish knowledge workers. Social Indicators Research, 126(2), 633–656.
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.
About this article
Cite this article
Viñas-Bardolet, C., Torrent-Sellens, J. & Guillen-Royo, M. Knowledge Workers and Job Satisfaction: Evidence from Europe. J Knowl Econ 11, 256–280 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13132-018-0541-1
- Job satisfaction
- Knowledge work
- Work organization
- Work–life balance