CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WMBD) — You might have a job, but is it a good job? A new job-quality indicator developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggests your job quality is closely tied to your job security, your work environment, and meaningful work.

The “Employment Quality of Illinois” is based on data collected from more than 3,500 Illinois workers in fall 2021.

“The project really wanted to have some sort of deep discussions about not just how work might be changing, but what was happening to the quality of work. We had reason to believe that over the past at least four decades that the quality of work had degraded,” said Dr. Robert Bruno, the study’s director and professor of labor and employment relations at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dr. Bruno said job quality became an important factor to consider after the pandemic affected the labor market.

“The importance of job quality was thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic-era labor market conditions of 2020-21, when frontline and essential workers were lauded as ‘heroes’ by their employers and the public, yet faced ongoing occupational health and safety hazards, unpredictable work schedules, and inadequate or excessive work hours,” he said.

How the data was collected

Study participants were asked to assess the quality of their job using a scale of 0-10. Using those ratings, the study produced averages for how Illinois workers felt about their jobs.

For example, at least 25% of Illinois workers said their employment situation was very high quality, represented by them rating their situation as a 9 or 10 on the scale. On the other hand, more than 25% of workers rated their job quality as low or very low.

A total of seven core dimensions, both subjective and objective, create a “composite measure of employment quality with a wide range of variables.”

  • Pay
  • Employer supports and benefit coverage
  • Outlook
  • Hours and scheduling
  • Social and physical working environment
  • Job content
  • Contract type

The average worker ranked their job quality as 6.8, according to the study. Approximately 63% of part-time workers were underemployed, with only 29% satisfied with their total number of work hours. Of full-time employees, 44% were satisfied with their work hours.

Work environment, job content and employment outlook are the three biggest factors influencing employment quality, according to the study.

“Workers simply don’t want to be seen as a force of production in the short term, but they that perhaps this is a job that can develop into a middle class way of life,” said Bruno.

The study also showed union members rated their employment quality nearly a full point higher than workers without union representation.

However, the study did not appear favorably for women, single parents, racial and ethnic minorities, and workers with disabilities in general.

“Those groups tend to have less access to high-quality jobs,” Bruno said. “They tend to have jobs with lower-quality benefits than partnered parents, men, white workers, and workers without disabilities. While those workers are already disadvantaged in the labor market, their lack of benefits makes them even more vulnerable to unsafe working conditions and economic hardship.”

Implications of the study

Kari Rauh, manager of workforce development at Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, said retention is a big challenge among local employers.

“Many employers have addressed the challenges they’ve experienced with hiring or with retention by trying to increase pay and offering additional benefits,” Rauh said. “While that’s important, the study really showed what employees really want is to know that their jobs are safe and secure.”

Dylan Bellisle, the study’s co-author and post-doctoral researcher at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, concurred with Rauh’s thoughts.

“If we’re thinking about outlook, we’re thinking about things about job security,” Bellisle said. “Am I going to have a job in the next six months, 12 months? Am I getting those training opportunities that I can see I’m going to move up in the business that I’m currently in? 

Bruno said some implications of the study suggest Illinois should formally adopt the indicator’s seven components as a statewide job-quality measurement. He also thinks the state should track those numbers annually.

To rank your own employment quality and see how it stacks up with others, click here.