Determinants of older and younger workers’ job satisfaction and organisational commitment in the contrasting labour markets of Belgium and Sweden.
I coauthored this study during my first job as a scientific employee at the Department of Personnel Management and Work and Organizational Psychology. For about 3 months I worked as a researcher for the PSYCONES-project (PSYchological CONtracts across Employment Situations) that was supported by a grant from the European Union under supervision of Prof. Dr. Rita Claes. As this was my first academic job and my first scientific publication, it proved a great learning experience.
The study appeared in Ageing and Society in 2008.
Starting point of the study was the observation that promoting the retention of older workers is high on the agenda of governments, employers, unions and the media. However, as older workers have to work longer, it seems inevitable and necessary that they do so in a satisfied and committed way. What factors keep older workers satisfied and committed at work? Do these factors differ from younger workers? And does the labor market (favorable versus unfavorable) matter? To answer these questions this study contrasted samples of older (50+) and younger workers (-25) in a favorable (Sweden) and unfavorable labor market (Belgium). Data were collected during 2003-2004 as part of a larger study (PSYCONES).
The core research question is whether the factors influencing satisfaction and commitment are different for the two age groups, after controlling for country, gender, education level, employment sector, supervisory position, and the employee’s financial contribution to the household. The predictors included workers’ self-reports of skill discretion, organizational fairness , and perceived job insecurity. Skill discretion is the range of skills used on the job. Organizational fairness refers to the fairness of the material outcomes of work (distributive justice), of the procedures used to determine the distribution of outcomes (procedural justice), and of inter-personal treatment (interactional justice). Job insecurity is a subjective estimate of one’s chances of losing one’s job.
Hierarchical linear regression analyses revealed that, across age groups, skill discretion and organizational fairness predicted both job satisfaction and organizational commitment. For older workers there was a negative impact of perceived job insecurity on job satisfaction and organizational commitment. For older workers there was a negative impact of perceived job insecurity on job satisfaction and organizational commitment. The national context only affected younger workers. In the unfavorable Belgian labor market, they were more satisfied and committed to their organization.
To conclude: do different factors influence older and younger workers’ job satisfaction and organizational commitment? Are different models required? The answer is ‘partly no’, given the cross-age positive effects of skill discretion and organizational fairness, and ‘partly yes’, given both the negative effect of perceived job insecurity on older workers in both countries, and the inverse effect for younger workers in Belgium.
Claes, R. & Van de Ven, B. (2008). Determinants of older and younger workers’ job satisfaction and organisational commitment in the contrasting labour markets of Belgium and Sweden. Ageing and Society, 28, 1093-1112.