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Comparative welfare state impacts on work quality and job satisfaction: A cross‐national analysis

Jonathan H. Westover (Woodbury School of Business, Utah Valley University, Orem, Utah, USA)

International Journal of Social Economics

ISSN: 0306-8293

Article publication date: 1 June 2012




The vast cross‐disciplinary literature exploring work quality and job satisfaction has linked worker experiences to many individual, organizational, and social outcomes, yet this research has largely failed to shed much light on why cross‐national differences in worker satisfaction and its determinants persist over time. The purpose of this paper to: empirically test (using various bivariate descriptive procedures and comparative OLS regression) significant, cross‐national differences in job satisfaction and its determinants; and explore the reasons for these cross‐national differences, moving beyond the research of social psychologists and organizational behavior researchers, to also include import macro cross‐national factors that directly influence these differences.


In this research, the author applies and extends Handel's Post and Neo‐Fordist framework for understanding job characteristics and job satisfaction, using non‐panel longitudinal data from the International Social Survey Program (Work Orientations I, II, and III:, 1989, 1997, 2005 – survey questions on job characteristics and job quality) and various welfare state country‐contextual variables.


OLS regression results of job satisfaction by country show that for countries with relative higher levels of welfare state safety net provisions, intrinsic work characteristics provide greater overall predictability in overall perceived job satisfaction. Once more, extrinsic work characteristics generally have greater salience and predictability in overall perceived job satisfaction in countries relatively lower levels of welfare state safety net provisions. Furthermore, the results clearly show that regardless of country level of welfare state safety net provisions, intrinsic work characteristics add the most overall predictability to perceived job satisfaction of workers within the study countries. Finally, an often accepted job satisfaction model, commonly considered to be widely generalizable across a wide variety of cross‐cultural and cross‐national contexts, actually appears to have a lack of applicability across countries.


What are the key country‐level contextual and global‐macro variables driving these country differences in job characteristics and perceived worker satisfaction? Prior research could not answer this question. However, this research is the first and only empirical inquiry to look at the relationship between macro welfare state country‐contextual factors and job satisfaction. Like many work attitudes, job satisfaction is a dynamic construct that changes in response to personal and environmental conditions. Finally, monitoring job satisfaction over time and in different contexts allows one to better examine and understand the salient factors that affect job satisfaction.



Westover, J.H. (2012), "Comparative welfare state impacts on work quality and job satisfaction: A cross‐national analysis", International Journal of Social Economics, Vol. 39 No. 7, pp. 503-525.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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