Hard work? Pursuing quality of work and life in European low-wage sectors
WALQING Final Conference
Vienna, 19-20 September 2012


Creating “more and better jobs”: With this formula, the European Employment Strategy announced its main aim for the following decades in 2000. But has this double objective been put into practice?

  • In which areas have additional jobs evolved?
  • Which new jobs face problematic working conditions or low wages?
  • What vulnerabilities are workers in these jobs exposed to?

In the course of three years of research, the EU-funded walqing project carried out by research institutions in eleven European countries has investigated these questions from different angles.

Indeed, walqing found that about half of the jobs that were newly created between 2000 and 2007 have problematic working conditions. They concentrate in expanding sectors that often have low skills and wages, are faced with considerable restructuring and cost-based competition, offer few possibilities of advancement or voice at work, but contribute centrally to European societies’ quality of life. The project has focussed on five selected sectors and central groups of employees:

  • waste collectors in the waste sector,
  • office cleaners in the cleaning industry,
  • builders in green construction,
  • mobile elderly carers in the health and social sector,
  • and catering staff in the hotels and restaurants sector.

While we find various patterns of poor quality of work that enhance the social vulnerability of groups and individuals, the research also shows that work in “simple services” can be shaped in favourable ways. Social partnership, smart management strategies and employees’ voice can contribute to solutions to sector-specific and cross-sectoral challenges such as precarious work, high labour turnover, health hazards or work-life imbalances. Not least, employees’ occupational trajectories, experiences and aspirations need to be taken into account to improve jobs in these sectors. 

Now, towards the end of the project, the research team is looking forward to presenting results of its research activities. We invite interested scholars, representatives of unions, employer associations and NGOs, policymakers and sector actors to participate in this international two-day event. 

The programme will contain presentations of walqing research results and practical examples that cover institutional frameworks as well as subjective perspectives of workers, structural disadvantages of specific groups of the workforce, and strategies of companies. The conference puts special emphasis on linking academic and practical knowledge.


walqing-Branchenbroschüren auf Deutsch

Die Broschürenreihe zu den im walqing-Projekt behandelten Branchen steht jetzt auch auf Deutsch zur Verfügung[more]

German-language version of walqing sector brochures

The series of walqing sector brochures is now also available in a German-language version[more]

walqing project successfully completed, final project reports and documentation online

The final synthesis reports on case-study research, individual perspective and agency of jobholders as well as all project deliverables and documentation are now available[more]