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Why Work?

Comparative Studies on Welfare Regimes and Individuals' Work Orientations

Ingrid Esser

Stockholm Universitet 2004. 196 s. ISBN 91-7604-099-2
Bogomtale fra forlaget.

The main purpose of this thesis is to examine how different welfare and production regimes may have structured individuals’ work orientations into cross-national patterns by the late 1990s and early 2000s. Three different aspects of work orientations are considered in the three studies. Study 1: Welfare Regimes, Production Regimes and Employment Commitment: A Multi-level analysis of Twelve OECD countries. Since the introduction of the first social insurance schemes, questions have been raised regarding the trade-off between the adequacy and equity of benefits, and their effects on individuals’ work orientations. This study examines the role of both welfare and production regime institutions for explaining cross-national patterns in individuals’ employment commitment across twelve OECD-countries in the late 1990s. Results from multi-level analyses show firstly how employment commitment is stronger within more generous welfare regimes as well as within more extensively coordinated production regimes. Secondly, institutions are found to be more important for structuring the attitudes of persons with less stable labour market attachment. Thirdly, for men, there are clear positive cross-level interaction effects between institutional structures and individuals’ socio-economic status, whereas institutions matter more equally regardless of socio-economic status for women. In relation to the concerns with the allegedly negative unintended consequences of welfare regime institutions for creating distortions, these seem to be unwarranted with regards to employment commitment. To the contrary, there appears to be a ‘paradox of employment commitment’: clearly earnings-related benefits of more generous welfare regimes appear to generate stronger commitment to take part in paid work.
Study 2: Unemployment Insurance and Work Values in Twenty-Three Welfare States. This study addresses the question of whether extended ‘social rights’, specifically in the form of unemployment insurance, is undermining people’s willingness to perform their ‘social duties’ in the form of productive work. Multi-level analyses is used to evaluate how three aspects of institutional design may explain cross-national patterns of work values across twenty-three industrialized countries in 2000. There is a consistent tendency for a positive relationship between more traditional work values with higher generosity of benefit levels as well as more demanding eligibility conditions. To the contrary, a negative relationship is found in relation to duration periods. The strength and significance of these relationships however differ across the three value dimensions studied. Firstly, the clearest pattern is found in relation to how work is valued as a ‘duty towards society’, where all institutional effects are significant. Secondly, in relation to valuations of how ‘unemployed persons should accept job offers or lose their benefits’, the positive effects of the eligibility factor are non-significant, and the negative duration effects are only significant among working men. Thirdly, in relation to how work is not valued as a ‘free choice’, institutional effects are only significant when working women within the sixteen ‘older’ welfare states are compared. The effects of economic development are inconsistent across value dimensions and in the opposite direction expected from modernization theory; more traditional work values are found to be stronger in countries with higher levels of economic development. Study 3: Continued Work or Retirement? Preferred Exit-age in Western European countries. The combination of greying populations, decreasing fertility rates and a marked trend in falling retirement age is profoundly challenging the sharing of resources and supporting responsibilities between generations in the developed world. Previous studies on earlier exit-trends have focused mainly on supply-side incentives and generally conclude that people will exit given available retirement options. Substantial cross-national variations in exit-ages however remain unexplained. This suggests that also normative factors such as attitudes to work and retirement might be of importance. Through multi-level analyses, this study evaluates how welfare regime generosity, as well as production regime coordination explains cross-national patterns of retirement preferences across twelve Western European countries. Analysis firstly shows how both men and women on average prefer to retire at 58 years, meaning on average approximately 7 or 5.5 years before statutory retirement age in the case of men and women respectively. Contrary to what is expected from previous research on supply-side factors, preferences for relatively later retirement is found within more generous welfare regimes and also within more extensively coordinated production regimes. For women, however, institutional effects do not remain once substantial cross-national differences in women’s statutory retirement ages are taken into account.