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December 1989, Vol. 112, No. 12
More than wages at issue in job quality debate
Neal H. Rosenthal
Everyone agrees that the quality of jobs differs, but determining if one job is better than another can lead to great debate. Whether jobs have qualities deemed positive ("good jobs") or negative ("bad jobs") depends on the criteria used to evaluate the job as well as who does the evaluation. Economists focus their good jobs-bad jobs debate on wages, while individuals, as well as counselors and psychologists, who are primarily concerned with a comprehensive view of an individual's well-being, also consider the importance of job satisfaction, job security, and many other factors.
This article discusses the effect of nonwage attributes of jobs on the perceptions of job quality. It broadens the good jobs-bad jobs debate by considering factors in addition to wages which may be important to individuals in determining the quality of their jobs. The intention is not to detract from concerns about the economic benefits of work, but to highlight important aspects of job quality other than wages.
Individuals consider a multitude of factors in addition to earnings when characterizing a job as "good" or "bad." For purposes of this discussion, these factors are grouped into five categories: job duties and working conditions, job satisfaction, period of work, job status, and job security. Although many of the factors are associated with specific occupations, it is important to remember that they can vary within an occupation. Just as earnings may have a wide range within an occupation, so may working conditions, job security, and determinants of job satisfaction.
This excerpt is from an article published in the December 1989 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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