Futuribles Journal n° 395

Entreprises, travail - Société, modes de vie

The Meaning of Work within the European Union

The serious economic crisis that has afflicted Europe for more than five years and its consequences for employment have confirmed the importance of having a job today, if such confirmation were needed, jobs being both an essential source of income for most individuals and the means of –both personal and social– self-affirmation. The last wave of survey activity for the European Values Study, carried out in 2008, at a point when Europe had barely yet been hit by the crisis, even then confirmed this central role of work in European societies. Jean-François Tchernia analyses the findings in this field, showing how Europeans position themselves with regard to work as a social norm, on the one hand, and how they see their personal aspirations as working individuals, on the other.

When it comes to social norms, Europeans take a rather traditional view: work is generally regarded as a social duty and idleness is viewed negatively; work is to be seen as a source of self-esteem. Regarding individual aspirations, Europeans expect work to be a source of personal satisfaction (initiative, development of skills, social usefulness etc.), but also to bring material satisfaction (income, acceptable working hours, holidays etc.). Jean-François Tchernia notes the differences that are found from country to country, as well as the correlations between the various factors employed in the Values Study to measure these aspects. In every case there are strong national divergences affecting this general picture; in particular, Europeans in the countries with the longest-standing economic development tend to value most highly the part played by work in personal fulfilment, whereas in the less developed countries material aspirations count for more. At the end of the article, Jean-François Tchernia also analyses Europeans’ attitudes towards leisure.

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