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Employment Regimes and the Quality of Work$
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Duncan Gallie

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199230105

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199230105.001.0001

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Task Discretion and Job Quality

Task Discretion and Job Quality

(p.105) 4 Task Discretion and Job Quality
Employment Regimes and the Quality of Work

Duncan Gallie (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Task discretion has long been acknowledged by analysts from very diverse theoretical perspectives as critical for the individual's capacity for self-realization in work, for their personal satisfaction with working life, for their work motivation, and for their commitment to or alienation from their employer. However, there is very little evidence to date about how far the scope for employees to exercise discretion in their work varies between countries. Similarly, little is known about whether there has been any systematic pattern for differences between numbers of specific categories of employee to increase over the period involving greater workforce polarization. This chapter addresses these issues and considers whether there are institutional conditions that affect the level of employee task discretion and the risks of polarization. The analysis of the comparative data focuses primarily on the differences in the level of task discretion between the five countries — Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Spain — that have been taken as exemplars of different types of institutional arrangement. There is no evidence of general processes affecting either the overall level or the extent of polarization in task discretion in West European societies. Rather there have been distinct national developments, which are plausibly related to differences in institutional patterns. In particular, the strength of trade unionism is associated with the level of task discretion across the EU-15 countries as a whole, while national policies to enhance the quality of working life may help account both for the distinctiveness of the Nordic countries and for the high position of France relative to the strength of its trade union movement.

Keywords:   employee task discretion, polarization, France, Germany, Britain, Sweden, Spain

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