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British women’s job satisfaction takes a tumble


Research based on around 25,000 British women employees shows that average level of overall satisfaction with their jobs has been falling for 15 years, according to new findings presented at the Social Policy Association Annual Conference on Monday (27 June 2005).

Women workers used to have significantly higher levels of job satisfaction than men in Britain, but now they have almost the same level as male workers. Men’s job satisfaction has remained constant over the period.

The puzzling results might seem to be a sign of growing pressures on women in the workplace, as women compete increasingly with men for the better jobs especially in the professions and management.

Some commentators argue that women doing such jobs feel increasingly stressed at work, suffering a serious drop in general sense of well-being.

But Professor Mike Rose from the University of Bath who carried out the research for the Economic and Social Research Council rejected that explanation: “There’s no sign of a general fall in psychological well-being among women employees since 1990. “We have excellent data there, and they show absolutely no change over the period. In fact, our special measures of general happiness show a slight upward trend. “Being unhappy at work just isn’t the same as being generally unhappy. You can be dissatisfied with a job without being an unhappy person”.

Another part of the puzzle is that satisfaction among women who work part-time has fallen more dramatically than among the full-timers. Part-timer women employees were once thought of as ‘grateful slaves’ in a pin-money underclass, happy to take low-grade jobs for poor pay and conditions. “If women part-timers ever had such attitudes they certainly don’t have them now”, said Professor Rose.

“And you can forget the ‘pin-money’ tag. OK, these are not career builders like many of the women full-timers. But more and more see themselves as sharing the role of breadwinner, helping to pay the grocery bill and – increasingly for the younger ones – the mortgage. They’re more critical of their jobs because they share the provider role.”

Mike Rose | alfa
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