What is a good job?

When politicians promise to create more jobs, they typically promise ‘good jobs’ or ‘good middle-class jobs.’ But what do they mean by a ‘good job?’

When politicians promise to create more jobs, they typically promise ‘good jobs’ or ‘good middle-class jobs.’ But what do they mean by a ‘good job?’

Typically they don’t define it and instead end up focusing on the quantity of jobs rather than the quality. The quantity of jobs clearly matters. But a successful jobs policy must enhance the opportunity for good jobs as well.

Fortunately, there are efforts underway to help define what is meant by a good job. These efforts have been brought together by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development in the 2014 edition of its annual Employment Report.

“Job quality,” the OECD report says, refers to “those aspects of employment that contribute to the well-being of workers.” This is not a bad definition of a good job. Policies, then, should be geared to the quality of job opportunities as well as the quantity. It’s the success in doing well in both that determines how well a country is doing.

Overall, the OECD report finds that Canada ranks somewhere in the middle among 32 countries when it comes to the quality of jobs, along with the United States. The best performers include Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. This should be no surprise since these countries place a higher value on social cohesion and fairness than do Canada, the U.S. or the U.K.

The report also finds there are three groups of workers that face many obstacles in securing a quality job. These include workers with low skills, workers with temporary jobs and young workers, while high-skill workers not only have access to more jobs but also to the best quality jobs.

The OECD report identifies three important factors that define quality jobs and contribute to worker well-being. These are:

l Earnings equality, which not only includes the level of earnings but also the distribution of earnings. It measures how well employment contributes to the material standard of living of workers and their families. But income inequality also matters. “For a given level of average earnings, overall well-being tends to be higher the more equal is its distribution,” the OECD says.

l Labour market security refers to economic security and the risk of job loss and what this means for workers and their families. It is determined by the risk of unemployment, which includes the probability of becoming unemployed and the average expected time to get another job, and unemployment insurance, which includes unemployment benefit coverage. Laws providing for a minimum wage, workplace health and safety, and hours of work legislation, as well as retraining opportunities, all contribute to labour market security.

l Quality of work environment, which is determined by the nature and intensity of the job, the organization of the workplace and the workplace atmosphere.

The workplace environment “depends crucially on whether workers have autonomy in their job, are given learning opportunities and well-defined work objectives, and also receive constructive feedback,” according to the OECD report. It adds that “when jobs and workplaces combine these factors, people are more apt to manage work pressure and difficult tasks, and they also tend to be healthier, more satisfied with their job and more productive.” This is a critical responsibility of management.

Canada ranks 12th out of 32 countries when it comes to high-quality earnings, 20th when it comes to high labour market security, and 11th in good working environment.

Overall, Canadians do better in quality jobs than their American counterparts, but not as well as workers in Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

While the OECD focus on quality of jobs is directed at improving life chances and individual well-being for workers, there are broader economic and social benefits to society as well.

Without labour market security, workers will be more resistant to change at a time when we need a greater openness to change. When workers have a high quality work environment, they will be healthier because they will not be exposed to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and other forms of stress-induced poor health.

They will also be more productive, enhancing the competitiveness of their employers, and have lower rates of absenteeism.

All of society benefits when we create the conditions for good jobs.

Quantity and quality of jobs, then, have to be our goals. Right now, we are getting only middling results on both. Quantity without quality is not a recipe for a successful economy.

Economist David Crane is a syndicated Toronto Star columnist. He can be reached at crane@interlog.com.

Just Posted

Off-highway vehicles recovered on Sunchild

Rocky Mountain House RCMP notifying owners

Alberta’s status of women minister joins Twitter debate over women’s marches

EDMONTON — A minister in Alberta’s NDP government has chastised a tweet… Continue reading

Canada faces angry Americans in pivotal sixth round of NAFTA talks

Canada will be hosting an annoyed and angry United States as the… Continue reading

Arts and Craft (Beer) evening set for Feb. 3

Raising money for Red Deer Arts Council

‘Hobbit’ director Peter Jackson making WWI documentary

LONDON — “The Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson is transforming… Continue reading

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

VIDEO: Thousands join women’s march events across B.C.

Today marks one year since the first Women’s March on Washington

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month