7th of October – Day for Decent Work?

Unpaid overtime and mental stress rule around the globe


On average 4 out of 10 employees work more hours than agreed in their contracts. On top, half of those working overtime are not compensated at all for the extra hours put in. This is the major outcome of an international study based on WageIndicator data. It compares Decent Work standards as perceived by almost 350,000 employees in 11 countries ranging from Europe, to Latin America and Africa. The findings are presented at the occasion of October 7th, World Day for Decent Work.

Next to the lack of compensation for overtime, employees from around the globe in equal measure report their work to be physically exhausting and mentally even more so. These work related stress patterns are measured on a scale from 1 (no stress) to 5 (daily stress). Exhausting physical stress is reported as an average 2.5 on this scale. Exhausting mental stress is experienced in all countries to be an average 3.5, thus manifests itself more frequently – regardless of the state of development of the economy.

A third lacking Decent Work standard relates to job insecurity. Especially employees without a permanent contract suffer more from feelings that they may lose their job anytime than their permanently employed colleagues. The occurrence of workers without a permanent contract varies greatly between countries: in Argentina and the UK only 10 percent, but in Brazil and the Netherlands almost 20 percent for example. The type of contract however is not the only reason leading to job insecurity. For in all countries employees on average say to be only half sure of their job.  Again, as in the case of stress, this pattern occurs in each of the 11 countries compared, whatever their state of development.

The good news emerging from this study of Decent Work standards seems to be that collective bargaining coverage helps to raise pay levels. Employees in industries with collective bargains report on average higher wages than their colleagues who have to make do without a collective agreement.

The report ‘Decent work and WageIndicator’ by Fikret Öz, WageIndicator Foundation, is based on 342,000 observations (i.e. valid responses) from employees in 11 countries, contributed between 2006 and the first half of 2008. The comparative study clearly demonstrates that WageIndicator can provide data regarding several dimensions of Decent Work.

Download the full report: Decent work and WageIndicator (pdf, 144KB)

At present (2008) WageIndicator is fully operational and/or has websites with an internationally comparable survey in 35 countries worldwide, a survey in which over 200,000 new visitors participate each year.



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