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EU Research Grant Success on Work & Life Quality

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Dr David Holman from the Institute of Work Psychology and the Management School has achieved grant success with the WALQING project, which stands for ‘Work and Life Quality in New and Growing Jobs’. A key objective of the project is to address a central aim of EU policy since the Lisbon Treaty of 2001, that is, to create ‘more and better jobs’. The project is addressing this aim because, although more jobs have been created since 2001, little is known about the quality of these jobs, the impact they have on employees’ quality of life and the organisational and institutional preconditions that support the development of high quality jobs within the EU. The specific questions to be addressed by WALQING include:

· In which types of business function are new growth jobs being created within the EU?

· What is the quality of these new growth jobs?

· To what extent do new growth jobs affect an employee’s quality of life?

· What are the policies and practices of organisations, social partners and other stakeholders that affect job quality in new growth jobs?

· How can examples of good practice that support the development of high quality paths be transferred beyond their national context?

To address these questions the WALQING project will conduct seven studies:

Study 1: The development of new jobs by business functions in Europe

The EU Labour Force Survey will be used to identify business functions where there has been a substantial creation of new jobs, particularly with regard to low wage jobs in service and manufacturing industries.

Study 2: Job quality in new growth jobs: nature, distribution and effects

The European Working Conditions Survey will be used to analyse the extent and type of job quality in new growth jobs, particularly with regard to low wage jobs in service and manufacturing industries. This study will be led by David Holman, University of Sheffield.

Study 3: Quality of life new growth jobs

The EU Labour Force Survey will be used to examine quality of life issues in new growth jobs, particularly with regard to low wage jobs in service and manufacturing industries.

Study 4: Stakeholder policies

A comparative institutional analysis and stocktaking of European and national policies and social dialogues will be conducted. Key stakeholders will be interviewed about their experience of the emergence of low-quality jobs and vulnerable groups in the selected sectors. The stakeholders will include social partners (employers associations and unions), sectoral research or advisory bodies, NGOs attending to specific vulnerable groups in the sectors and government agencies regulating conditions in the sectors.

Study 5: Organisational arrangements and strategies

The aim of this study will be to investigate how company strategies and practices influence the quality of employees’ work and life. This will be done by conducting case studies of companies or business functions in selected and strategic sectors where job growth has taken place, and where working conditions and quality of work and life are problematic but positive synergies are possible.

Study 6: Individual perspectives and agency

This study will focus on the role of individual agency and orientation. The aim is to analyse the interaction between individual agency and orientation on the one hand, and organisation and contractual arrangements on the other, in order to identify problematic and positive synergies with regard to job quality. Semi-structured interviewswill be conducted with employees in the selected occupations or functions from each of the case studies selected in Study 5.

Study 7: Developing stakeholder strategies – policy lessons

The main aim of this study will be to develop and disseminate strategies for improving unhealthy or dysfunctional working conditions. Action research based interventions will be the core methodology employed, putting particular emphasis on creating arenas for learning and dialogue, where the stakeholders engage themselves in discussing core findings from the case studies as well as commit themselves to implementing joint strategies at company or sector level.

The WALQING consortium consists of eleven European Universities and is being led by FORBA (Forschungs-und Beratungsstelle Arbeitswelt) in Austria. The university partners are located in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Spain and the UK. The researchers involved in the project include specialists in labour economics, work psychology, sociology of work and organisations, political science, management studies and human resource management. The funding, from EU Framework 7, is for €2.7 million over three years, and the University of Sheffield will receive approximately €220K. The University of Sheffield will lead Study 2, and be closely involved in Studies 5 and 6.