Work orientations in contemporary advanced societies : Three comparative studies based on large-scale cross-national survey data
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- Department of Sociology 
This thesis investigates work orientations among workers in contemporary capitalist societies from a comparative cross-national perspective. It consists of three individual studies. Each applies a different conceptual and theoretical framework and analyses data from large survey programmes for several different societies. The studies address three general research questions. What factors are primarily responsible for differences in work orientations among individuals in different societies? Are work orientations changing over time as societies develop and if so, how can the divergence in these trends across societies be explained? And, finally, can work orientations also be conceptualized as characteristics of a society’s cultural contexts, independently shaping individuals’ ideas, expectations, and preferences in spheres of life other than work? To address these questions, each study focuses on different aspect of people’s orientation to work, approached through different work orientation concepts. The studies primarily rely on concepts of job preferences, work ethic and non-financial employment commitment. Although all three studies can be characterized as comparative cross-national studies, they employ different comparative designs and methodological approaches. Study I relates to a classical discussion about whether workers’ orientations are primarily shaped by social and cultural factors external to the work situation or whether they depend on organizational features and the nature of one’s work. It draws upon earlier studies which showed interrelatedness between workers’ experiences with the intrinsic quality of work and their preferences. The study seeks to determine if an explanation based on job quality can also be extended to explain cross-national patterns of job preferences. The results suggest relatively strong support for the job quality hypothesis. They show that experience with intrinsic quality of work is not only the strongest factor to explain the preferences of individual workers within a country, but that it also accounts for a lion’s share of variance in job preferences at the country level. Moreover, cross-national distribution of both job quality and job preferences is shown to follow a similar institutional logic predicted by power resources theory (PRT). The results indicate that where the unions are strong, job quality is generally higher, and workers’ intrinsic preferences are strengthened. This is likely to be a result of their value-reinforcing reaction to better quality of work. Study II addresses a theoretical argument about the long-term decline of work ethic in contemporary societies. The study adopts theoretical lenses of revised modernization theory. It investigates whether longitudinal evidence supports its predictions about decreasing work ethic being a by-product of a post-materialist value shift associated with socio-economic development. According to the theory, weakening of work ethic is supposed to unfold primarily through intergenerational population replacement. Trends for the last two decades are first analysed for the two most similar cases of development, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The analysis is later supplemented by an examination of data from nine other European countries. Results provide support for modernization theory and show that the work ethic of more recent cohorts has been continuously decreasing. The intergenerational differences, in conjunction with cohort turnover, have contributed to work ethic decline in all analysed countries alike. However, this component of social change has not yet dominated the overall work ethic trend in all countries included in the data. The findings indicate that this might be due to countries’ historical differences in socio- economic development as well as due to differences in the pace of development experienced in recent years. Study III draws upon theoretical discussions about the feasibility of a universal basic income (UBI). It has been repeatedly argued that a proposal’s capacity to appeal to the general public is likely to be impaired by the strength of productivist norms and values regarding the importance of paid work. The study then seeks to determine whether and to what extent cultural productivism can account for varying levels of public support for UBI between European societies. The findings show that the public’s average commitment to paid employment is the second strongest factor limiting support for UBI. However, this effect is surpassed and confounded by the negative effect of socio-economic development. The study draws upon revised modernization theory and provides an explanation for why socio-economic development may be a common underlying reason that UBI is less appealing in the eyes of the general public, while simultaneously creating conditions for workers’ stronger expressive attachment to paid employment. Findings presented in this thesis provide important insight regarding the formation, change and consequences of work orientations in contemporary advanced societies. They indicate that any comprehensive explanation of cross-national variation of work orientations has to take into consideration a broad range of macro factors related to a country’s socio-economic, cultural and labour-market characteristics. The complex nature of work orientations has to be acknowledged in the analysis of longitudinal trends. These are likely to reflect a more universal cultural logic of modernization as well as structural changes in the content, conditions and organization of work. However, work orientations are not only shaped by other contextual characteristics. Rather, orientations as socially embedded phenomena are part of a country’s wider cultural contexts. In turn, these cultural contexts may act as independent variables which shape individuals’ attitudes, ideas and preferences in other spheres of life.
Has partsPaper I: Kozák, M. (2020). What Matters in a Job? A Multi-Level Study of Job Preference Orientations and the Intrinsic Quality of Work in 25 Societies. Societies, 10(3), 62. The submitted version is available in the thesis file. The published version is available at: https://doi.org/10.3390/soc10030062
Paper II: Kozák, M. The work ethic and social change in the Czech Republic and Slovakia – a modernization theory perspective. The article is not available in BORA.
Paper III: Kozák, M. (2020). Cultural productivism and public support for the universal basic income from a cross-national perspective. European Societies, in press. The article is available in the thesis file. The article is also available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/14616696.2020.1758741