A Cross-National Comparison of Precarious Employment, Welfare Generosity, Culture Individualism and Workplace Flexibility
Methods: This study utilized data from the Generations of Talent project; data was collected between 2009 and 2010 from employees across 7 multinational companies in 11 countries. This study included respondents from the United States, Netherlands, Japan and China (N=6,116), countries that could capture the main difference in precarious employment, welfare generosity, and cultural individualism. Variables include in the study are: access to and use of flexibility (flexible hours, schedule and place), work-family balance satisfaction, individual characteristics, family characteristics, and employment characteristics. Random effect regression models with cluster adjustment were adopted in order to capture the intra-site variation in standard errors. For question 1, flexibility serves as the dependent variable and country dichotomies are independent variables. For question 2, work-family balance satisfaction is the dependent variable and country dummies as well as the country interactions with flexibility are independent variables. All models control for individual, family and employment characteristics.
Results: Results show cross-national variations in access to and use of flexibility. Workers in China have the least access to all three types of flexibility (hours/schedule/place), followed by Japan. Workers in Japan have the least use of all three types of flexibility. As to the effect of access to and use of flexibility on work family balance satisfaction, country rankings vary: for access to flexible schedule, US (β=0.52)> Japan (β= 0.26) & Netherlands (β= 0.22)>China (β= 0.13); for access to flexible place, Netherlands (β=0.31)>Japan (β=0.21)>China (β=0.16); for use of flexible hours US (β=0.30) & Japan (β=0.26)>Netherlands (β=0.04) & China (β=0.14); and for use of flexible place US (β=0.23)>China (β=-0.02).
Implications: Opposing the hypotheses, welfare generosity does not help explain workers’ behaviors and perceptions concerning workplace flexibility. With numerous public programs to support working parents, workers in Netherlands have the most access to flexibility offered by companies; the effect of flexibility on work-family balance satisfaction seems stronger (not weaker) in countries with higher level of welfare expenditure (Netherlands>Japan>US>China). Supporting the hypotheses, precious employment and cultural individualism are influential institutional factors. In a country with the worst situation of precious employment, Chinese workers have the least access to flexibility. As the only developed country with collectivism culture, Japanese workers are least likely to use flexibility. The beneficial effect of flexibility on work-family balance satisfaction seems stronger in countries with lower level of job precarity (US>Japan>Netherlands>China), and in countries with higher level of cultural individualism (US>Netherlands>Japan>China). Policy and practice implications are discussed.