June 15, 2016

British women’s job satisfaction drops to same level as men, study finds

The job satisfaction of women in the UK has fallen significantly in the last 25 years and is now no higher than that of men, according to a study from Lancaster Management School.

Researchers revisited an earlier study using data collated in the early 1990s, and found that job satisfaction among women has since deteriorated at three times the rate of their male peers.

The authors conclude that this is not because of a deterioration in the quality of jobs, but rather that women are now holding their jobs to a higher standard.

The earlier study (Clark, 1997) noted that women had much higher job satisfaction than men, despite experiencing worse labor market outcomes. This has been referred to by economists as the “paradox of the contented female worker”.

Colin Green, co-author of the study, told The Scotsman newspaper: “This revealing result suggests that while the early 1990s cohort aged out of a gender gap, young modern-day workers never had one in the first place … Women seem to have expectations about the labor force that increasingly reflect actual experience and that are closer to those of men.”

The author of the 1997 study, Andrew E. Clark, has written for IZA World of Labor about job quality and job satisfaction. Noting that overall job satisfaction is stagnant or falling in many countries, he writes that: “Policymakers may not need to intervene to improve job quality if the labor market can produce the socially-desirable level of job quality. However, intervention may be needed if distortionary taxes, misinformation, or imbalances in bargaining power prevent the market from producing optimal levels of job quality.”

The Lancaster Management School working paper, Paradox Lost: Disappearing Female Job Satisfaction, can be downloaded here (PDF).

Related articles:
What makes a good job? Job quality and job satisfaction by Andrew E. Clark
High involvement management and employee well-being by Petri Böckerman
Fairness and motivation by Armin Falk
Find more IZA World of Labor articles on personnel economics