December 18, 2000

Four out of five workers around the world describe themselves as very or somewhat satisfied with their job, dispelling the perception of boredom and drudgery in the new global workplace. But, according to the study of almost 10,000 employees in 39 countries by Ipsos-Reid, the proportion of workers who went so far as to describe themselves as “very satisfied” varies dramatically between countries.

Highlights of the study -- published in full in the company’s journal of public opinion, World Monitor --also show that more women than men are “very satisfied” with work, but that there is little difference in satisfaction among age groups.

“The good news is that people around the world generally say they are happy in their jobs,” says the study’s author, Douglas Rosane, a Paris-based expert in global workplace issues with Ipsos-Reid. “The intensity of worker satisfaction is also quite revealing with one-third reporting they are “very satisfied.” Still, some things never change. Managers are more satisfied than front-line workers and the higher the income level, the greater the degree of job satisfaction.”

Workers in Denmark are by far the happiest employees on the planet --a substantial majority (61%) describe themselves as “very satisfied” with their job. Norwegians (54% very satisfied) are close behind, followed by Americans (50% very satisfied). On the other side of the globe, middle- and upper-class urban Indians also show top levels of job satisfaction, with 55% describing themselves as “very satisfied” with their job. Levels of employee satisfaction in Canada and most of Western Europe were almost as high, with more than two out of five employees describing themselves as “very satisfied.”

Percentage of Workers “Very Satisfied” at their Job:
Top Five Countries

Denmark 61

India 55

Norway 54

United States 50

Ireland 49

While a majority of Latin American workers were at least “somewhat satisfied” with their jobs, only in urban Mexico did the proportion of “very satisfied” workers (44%) approach the levels typical of North America and Western Europe.

At the other end of the scale, Eastern Europeans seem uniformly less thrilled about their work. Barely one-in-ten Hungarians (9%), Ukrainians (10%), and Czechs (11%) report being “very satisfied” at their jobs. The rest of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics are only slightly more willing to give the highest marks to their worklives. The one happy exception is Slovenia, where nearly half (48%) of workers describe themselves as “very satisfied” on the job.

Asian workers are also among the most unlikely to report being “very satisfied” at their job—only 11% of Chinese, 14% of South Koreans, and 16% of Japanese give high marks to their life at work.

Percentage of Workers “Very Satisfied” at their Job:
Bottom Five Countries

Estonia 11

China 11

Czech Republic 10

Ukraine 10

Hungary 9

“These results point to the importance of expectations and hopes as well as current conditions,” notes Gus Schattenberg, vice president of global research for Ipsos-Reid. “The Americans and Scandinavians, as well as the new urban middle class in India, still see themselves on the top of the world—their economies are clicking, unemployment is low, and many workers are reaping the rewards. But workers in the former Eastern Bloc countries are a long way from having their expectations met as their workplaces adjust to the new market economy, and Asian workers still feel beaten down and on the defensive from the economic crisis that hit them two years ago.”

Results within each country are accurate within plus/minus 5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The U.S. and Canadian results have error margins of plus/minus 3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Interviews were conducted with 9,300 working-age adults in 39 countries last summer and were published in the 4th quarter issue of World Monitor.

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