Ten of nineteen respondents agreed with the first question; one disagreed, and; eight respondents neither agreed nor disagreed. Panelists agreeing with the statement argued that more independent workers such as the self-employed or individuals within small firms score consistently higher on job satisfaction measures than dependent workers; Martin Binder, Mark Wooden, Arthur Grimes, Arie Kapteyn, and Ronnie Schöb all state that independence and job autonomy are big predictors of job satisfaction. Francesco Sarracino added that “independent workers often balance the risks of their activity against the benefits of being in control of their life”; they stressed that control over one’s life is a key determinant of life satisfaction and wellbeing. Paul Frijters argued that autonomy and also personal growth and meaning are crucial for job satisfaction and overall wellbeing; one of the oldest and strongest findings in the wellbeing literature (see Buddelmeyer et al., 2015 for Australia). Notes of caution came from Mark Wooden and Tony Beatton, who highlight that research on very ‘dependent’ gig-economy workers, which includes many without job security, is still incipient.
Tony Beatton pointed to the poor working conditions of the more dependent workers: lower wages; no health coverage, and; the minimal government economic support they receive, for example during Covid19 lockdowns. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell added that the dependent workers often have little training and poor promotion opportunities, and, Arie Kapteyn argued that uncertain or fluctuating incomes causes stress and leads to lower wellbeing.
Finally, some of the panelists who agreed with the statement stressed that although for the majority of people casual jobs are associated with lower levels of wellbeing, some groups, like students, might like the flexibility of causal jobs (Arthur Grimes and Ruut Veenhoven).
Five out of the eight panelists who neither agreed nor disagreed claimed that individuals self-select into jobs, which makes it possible that people who end up in unhappy jobs were unhappy people anyway (Ori Heffetz, Chris Barrington-Leigh, and Eugenio Proto). They surmised that people self-select into a job because of their skills, personalities (Heinz Welsch) or entrepreneurial skills (Daniel Benjamin), which also relate to their pre-job level of wellbeing. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell, on the other hand, argued that many casual workers got into their jobs somewhat by accident because stable jobs were not available, which will make them unhappier. Chris Barrington-Leigh implicitly agreed when writting that we should guarantee that casual employment in large companies includes life-long training opportunities, which is good for wellbeing.
Two of the eight panelists who neither agreed nor disagreed mentioned the importance of: income stability; job security; job autonomy, and job competence: all are related to wellbeing and job satisfaction (Dawson et al. 2017; Unanue &Rempel, 2017). Finally, one of the eight neutral panelists stresses the importance of understanding whether those in casual employment would have a job otherwise (Alois Stutzer). However, Gigi Foster pointed out that during lockdown there were a lot of opportunities for casual employment (e.g. Uber Eats) and that those casuals may be happier than others with permanent jobs who were forced out of work and reliant on minimalist government income support.
Most of our panelists (17 out of 19) agreed with the second question: favorable tax policies for large companies are bad for wellbeing. One respondent argued that the question was too broad to be answered, and, another disagreed.
Arguments against tax policies favoring for large companies included: lower market efficiency, and thus, reduced welfare (Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ruut Veenhoven, Mark Wooden, Gigi Foster, Ori Heffetz, William Tov, Alois Stutzer, Wenceslao Unanue); companies that are too big to fail ( Francesco Sarracino); downward pressure on wages (Heinz Welsch); less efficiency and innovation (Arie Kaptyen, Heinz Welsch); small independent companies are left out because they did not get the tax and subsidy advantages, and; reduced trust in institutions (Ruut Veenhoven, Wenceslao Unanue). Paul Frijters also points to the incentives these types of policies create for firms to invest in getting favors rather than directing their efforts to wellbeing enhancing activities. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell worries that policy favoring large companies might lead to a race to the bottom for welfare provision: large companies shopping around for favorable low taxes put s an excessive burden on small companies and the many casual workers who work in them.
Panelists also pointed to the political distortion that occurs when large companies accumulate too much power, and, jeopardize democracy. Paul Frijters noted: “An economy totally dominated by very large companies is more prone to state capture by those large corporations, which stifles initiative and wellbeing in the long-run”; an argument also supported by Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell and Francesco Sarracino. They stress, when governments favor big business, they fail to regulate in ways that favors the general population, and, this leads to a misallocation of resources and stagnating if not reduced income, which increases inequality and lowers wellbeing. Policies that favor the wealthy and high income earners increase inequality and Wenceslao Unanue states this leads to lower wellbeing (Wilkinson and Picket, 2017). Similarly, Daniel Benjamin stresses that the companies with the resources to influence policy in their favor are not incented to promote the societal wellbeing, especially when a proposed policy is in conflict with their self-interests.
Another set of panelists argued that employees in small companies experience higher levels of wellbeing; especially where they are valued and treated as equals (Paul Frijters); where they are offered more creative jobs, or, those jobs are connected to the city or region where they live (Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell). Therefore, policies favoring large companies have the potential to destroy small companies, and, the overall wellbeing of society.
Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell notes that the data indicates large (international) companies are increasingly employing casual workers, which leads to lower job satisfaction and reduced wellbeing. Alois Stutzer writes that empirical evidence from Matthias Benz and Bruno Frey shows that it is more difficult to maintain high procedural utility, that comes emerges from self-determination, in large hierarchies. Workers can feel less valued in large companies. Larger companies offer more ‘polarized’ jobs in terms of both wages and quality (creativeness, training, opportunities to promotion), and this contributes to increasing inequality and reduced wellbeing (Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell).
Arthur Grimes suggests that policies affecting firms should be size-neutral, as there is mixed evidence on why small companies are preferable for workers' wellbeing or vice versa. Similarly, Chris Barrington argues that it is not about the size of the company, but rather about the corporate structure and mandate, and, he argues for incorporating wellbeing into company accountability. Martin Binder defends that we should develop policies for small firms, solo-self-employed and freelancers, instead of favoring large companies; because large firms already have a lot of market power. However, Eugenio Proto suggests some workers might lose, but overall, large companies like Uber can benefit consumers. Tony Beatton argues there are bigger things to worry about, like the effect of climate change on employment. Overall, there was very strong agreement that more casual jobs are bad for wellbeing and that government favoritism towards large companies was detrimental for wellbeing both directly (via their workers and less choice for consumers) and indirectly via the effect on our democracy.
- Buddelmeyer, H., McVicar, D. Wooden, M. (2015). Non‐standard “contingent” employment and job satisfaction: a panel data analysis. Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society 54 (2), 256-275.
- Dawson, C., Veliziotis, M. & Hpkins, B. (2014). Temporary employment, job satisfaction and subjective well-being. Economic & Industrial Democracy 38(1).
- Wilkinson, R.G. & Pickett, K.R. (2017). The enemy between us: The psychological and social costs of inequality. European Journal of Psychology (47)1, 11-24.