A variety of questions are examined in the study, that include:
- Where are the good jobs in the Irish labour market? In answering this question we focus on the principle attributes of people’s work and, in particular, look at the resources available to them and the demands made upon them. We include traditional measures such as pay, job security and working hours, and others that include the capacity of workers to exercise influence over the conduct of their work, the opportunities available to them to use their skills and pursue personal work-related goals, to combine work and family life, as well as the means available to them to voice concerns about their work. We then assess which of these factors, or combination of factors, is the most important determinant of workers’ job quality and which enhances their well-being. From this analysis, we identify where are the good jobs in the Irish labour market.
- What is working at home like? Here we examine a series of important questions that include: how extensive was working at home before and during the pandemic? Which workers worked predominantly at home? Did working at home affect the conduct of employees’ work? If so, in what ways? Were staff more or less productive, and for what reasons? Did the changes they experienced improve or impair the quality of their jobs and their physical health and mental well-being? We provide a workers’ perspective on productivity, and enquire whether they’ve undertaken more or less work during the pandemic and the reasons for this. Has it been the case that they are ‘always on’ and connected to their work? Has the pandemic been associated with an increase in employees performing work outside of contracted hours? We also look at levels of employee participation in decisions that affects their work. This is important as we know that participation not only affects workers’ motivation but also their innovative capacity and productivity. Finally we enquire of workers’ preferences in respect of where they might work in the future (remotely, at home, in the workplace or a hybrid approach) and the reasons for these preferences.
- How safe were workers in the workplace during Covid? We examine whether the measures taken by employers were perceived by workers to have been sufficient to make them feel safe at work. We ask if staff had concerns or worries, how were they raised with management and how were they responded to.
- What is the quality of management-employee relations? We examine the quality of employee relations in the workplace by looking at management-employee interactions, levels of trust, levels of employee support, employee voice, as well as levels of training and their adequacy. We also explore workers’ views of union representation and the levels of influence union representatives exercise in the workplace.
- What might the future of work look like? In order to envisage what the future of work might look like, we contend that we need first to examine and understand the present state of work and employment. Scenarios of doom or paradise as predicted by futurologists tend to be far too simplistic and have little anchoring in research evidence or of understandings of past changes in the nature of work. Where appropriate and where we have the empirical basis we identify the possibilities and challenges confronting the future of work.
Cross-cutting these research questions are a series of other thematic questions that assess differences in respondents’ experiences and views across different socio-economic groups that include different occupational categories, age cohorts, genders, ethnicity, adults with or without children, contractual status, etc.. These questions include:
- Which groups of workers were hardest hit by Covid-19 work arrangements
- Who benefitted from homeworking?
- How do preferences for work location vary across the different categories of workers?
- How secure are workers in their jobs? Are young workers more exposed to insecure and precarious forms of employment? Are new forms of ‘precarity’ emerging across different cohorts of non-permanent workers, including those who identify work opportunities via digital platforms, so-called ‘gig workers’.
- Which workers demonstrate more attachment to unions and see benefits in union representation?
- In addition we examine the job quality and experiences of those who work from home and those employed in essential front-line services and who had to ‘go into’ work.
THIS RESEARCH IS IMPORTANT
Covid-19 turned our economy and our working and private lives up-side down. To date its effects on people’s job quality and well-being have not been examined in Ireland. The WIIS 2021 is the first and only comprehensive study to examine these important questions. It is a benchmark study that will not only permit us to assess the effects of the pandemic on working people in Ireland, but it will also provide a scientifically robust point of reference for future studies.
This is important as it will allow us to provide points of comparison over time so that we might better monitor movements in job quality and identify its drivers.
Such data are of profound importance if we are to be in a position to make any credible statements about the ‘future of work’ in Ireland.