Young people in precarious or unsecure work, including temporary or zero-hour contracts, value ‘extrinsic’ work values such as pay and security less than those who have a permanent job.

However, if they feel that they’re overqualified for the job they’re in, they will place greater importance on pay and conditions compared to those who have a good skills match.

Researchers at Newcastle University, UK, looked at the work values of young people aged 18 – 35 in eleven countries across Europe.  They found that the quality of the work young people were currently in, as well as previous experiences of unemployment, have varying effects on their motivations towards their job.

Generally, age has an important effect on how young people feel about their work. The researchers found that people in their 20s who have had a spell out of work, valued ‘intrinsic’ aspects of their work, such as learning new things and opportunities for self-development, more than those who had been continuously employed.

However, this changes at about age 30 when this difference is reversed and those aged over 30 who have been unemployed place less importance on intrinsic values than those who have not been unemployed. This reflects the changing life stage that many experience in their 30s and the different attitudes towards risk that often accompanies this, the research team say.

The research, which is published in the current issue of the Annals of the American Academy, is one of the first studies to look specifically at young workers and the impact of the quality of their work conditions. The research team say that the findings provide a better understanding of the factors that shape young people’s attitudes to work and what they want out of a job.

Dr Emily Rainsford, Research Associate, Newcastle University, explained: “Experiences of unemployment or low quality work early in their career can directly influence the work values of a person and have a long-term impact on motivation and their attitudes towards pay and other benefits. Where young people feel there is a mis-match between the job they’re doing and their skills and experience, they are more motivated by aspects such as pay and job security.”


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