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The work environment in the twelve EU-countries: Differences and similarities

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Author: Smulders, P.G.W. · Kompier, M.A.J. · Paoli, P.
Institution: TNO Preventie en Gezondheid
Source:Human Relations, 10, 49, 1291-1313
Identifier: 233481
Keywords: Workplace · Cluster analysis · Cross-national study · European Union · Job stress · Physical working conditions · Working hours


A survey on the work environment in Europe was carried out by the European Union in 1991. The sample of the study was 12,500 workers (about 1000 per country) and was representative for the workforce distribution in the EU according to occupation, gender, age, economic sectors, and company size. With the help of cluster-analysis, it was concluded that a four-cluster solution was the best to describe the situation in Europe with respect to the work environment. The four clusters were: the "Northern" cluster (Denmark, West Germany, former East Germany, the Netherlands, and Great Britain), the "Middle" cluster (Belgium and Luxembourg), the "Southern" cluster (Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, and Ireland), and the "isolated Southern" cluster (Greece). The overall quality of working life in the Southern countries and Ireland - in comparison to the other European countries - was below average. In the Northern and Middle European EU-countries the quality of the work environment was above average. In the discussion, it is argued that an economic as well as a cultural model may be helpful in explaining the results.