Federal Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten has made a number of speeches recently about the importance of job quality in Australia.
On the surface, his contention that every Australian wants to work in a good job is highly understandable. Afterall, a good job means more money and the opportunity to fund a better lifestyle. A good job may also engender greater security and the opportunity to utilise skills in a fulfilling and satisfying manner. But the benefits don’t end there. Firm productivity and competitiveness have also been linked to the availability of good jobs, with skill utilisation-based job satisfaction leading to higher levels of staff retention.
From a national perspective, there’s an argument that good jobs offer an opportunity to move up the occupational ladder and a much-needed pathway to social mobility. Other schools of thought contend that good jobs, by virtue of their better pay and security, afford people the time and resources to engage with their neighbours and communities. With this eventuality leading to happier workers, it’s hard to ignore the role that good jobs can potentially play in holding the social fabric together.
But there’s a small problem. Despite the increasing importance placed on good jobs, we’re not quite sure what job quality actually means. For instance, is a good job one that satisfies all of the above criteria? Is a good job one that satisfies only one criterion? With the lack of solid definition currently making it impossible to identify the hotspots of good jobs - the types of occupations and industries that offer these jobs - academics need to start addressing this gap in knowledge.
Only by first ascertaining the conditions that create optimum employment can we hope to develop informed and appropriate policy responses and help create great places to work.
Author: Professor Chris Warhurst – University of Sydney Business School