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Survey of working life 2018: consultation

Stats NZ is seeking views from stakeholders and customers about the content of the next Survey of Working Life (SoWL), which we will run in the December quarter of 2018.

We'd like to hear from you by 10 July 2017.

This paper outlines the objectives of SoWL, summarises the topics included in previous surveys, and identifies topics now within the main HLFS. It also covers how to have your say about SoWL.

Your feedback

If you wish to have input on SoWL’s redevelopment we would like to hear from you. We are particularly interested in your feedback on the following questions:

  • Does the current content of SoWL (along with the HLFS) meet your information needs about New Zealanders’ employment conditions, working arrangements, and job quality?
  • Would you like any changes to the topics already included in SoWL – that is, any changes or additions to the information we collected in 2012?
  • Are there any new topics you would like to see included in the survey, and if so what information do you require?
  • Are there any topics in the 2012 SoWL that you think we no longer need to include in the survey, and which could make way for more important topics?

Contact carrie-anne.lynch@stats.govt.nz, SoWL project manager, to provide feedback on these questions or to discuss the SoWL redevelopment; or call (04) 931 4574. 

How to have your say at the end of this document provides more information about the consultation process, our criteria for assessing new and existing survey topics, and our timeline.

Consultation’s purpose

This will be the third iteration of SoWL, which ran as a supplement to the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) in 2008 and 2012. SoWL requires some redevelopment as a consequence of the recent redevelopment of the HLFS – some questions from SoWL moved into the main HLFS.

It is also an opportunity to review the information we currently have about the quality of working life and ensure it is meeting customers’ needs. This subject is of increasing focus internationally and locally as technological, economic, and regulatory changes alter the nature of work and the working conditions for many people.

We are keen to ensure we are collecting the right information to monitor these developments – whether from SoWL, the HLFS, or administrative data sources.

Objectives of SoWL

The first SoWL in 2008 was developed collaboratively between Stats NZ and the Department of Labour. The aim was to address significant information gaps in official data about working arrangements and non-wage conditions of employment. The survey’s objectives were:

to provide statistical data that can be used to monitor changes in the employment conditions, working arrangements and job quality of employed people in New Zealand, and to better understand the reasons for and implications of these employment patterns (Statistics NZ, 2008).

For the 2012 SoWL these objectives were unchanged. The objectives for the 2018 survey will be substantially the same, although we are considering widening the subject population from currently employed people to all people of working age. This would allow us to collect information from non-employed people about their experiences in previous jobs. However, the survey will still focus on topics related to employment conditions, working arrangements, and job quality.

Previous SoWL content

In 2008 and 2012, SoWL collected a wide range of information about people’s current jobs. This covered topics such as job security, job flexibility, working hours, earnings, employment agreements, health and safety, and job satisfaction. The survey content was substantially the same in 2008 and 2012, with the addition of five new questions in 2012. Most of the new questions sought additional information or clarity about existing topics, with only one substantively new topic added.

Below is a summary of the content from the 2012 survey.

Job tenure

Information on how long the respondent had been working for their employer in their main job, or in their business if they were self-employed. We also asked respondents whether they had started a job on a 90-day trial period.

Employment relationships of employees

Respondents who were employees (working for wages or salary) in their main job were asked if they were permanent or temporary employees. If temporary, we asked additional questions about the types of temporary work they were doing, to classify them as: a casual worker, fixed-term worker, temporary agency worker, seasonal worker, or some other type of temporary worker.

Temporary employees were asked if their hours of work changed from week to week to suit the needs of their employer, about their reasons for doing temporary work, and their preference for getting an ongoing/permanent job.

Working-time patterns

We asked all respondents about working-time patterns across all their jobs, and collected the following information:

  • usual working time
  • usual number of days worked per week
  • overall work pattern (mainly daytime, mainly evening, mainly night, changing shifts, other)
  • preference for working at different times of the day than those usually worked
  • whether they worked long hours and if this caused any difficulties
  • preference for working fewer hours and earning less in their main job. 

Respondents who had worked in the four weeks before the interview were also asked for the following information for that four-week period:

  • incidence of work for one hour or more at non-standard times – the number of times worked at night, in the evening, in the early morning, on a Saturday, and on a Sunday
  • payment for any work done at the weekend or in the evening
  • any difficulties caused by working at a non-standard time
  • number of hours of paid overtime and other extra unpaid hours.

Work at home

We collected information on the number of hours worked from home in the four-week period before the interview. Employees (working for wages or salary) were also asked if they had an arrangement with their employer to be paid for any work done at home.

Job flexibility

Respondents were asked about job flexibility options available to them in their main job. We asked:

  • if they had flexible hours available in their main job (all employed)
  • if their employer would let them take a few days unpaid leave if needed (employees only)
  • if their employer would let them reduce their hours to less than 30 a week if wanted (full-time employees only)
  • how much notice they had of their work schedule (only asked of temporary agency, casual, and seasonal workers, and those who worked changing shifts or some 'other' work pattern)
  • if they could make changes to their shifts if wanted (only asked of employees who worked changing shifts).

Terms and conditions of employment

Only employees (working for wages or salary) were asked these questions. We collected information on union membership and whether the respondent was on a collective or an individual employment agreement. Employees were also asked about their perceived job security, employer-funded study and training, and annual leave entitlement.

Work-related health and safety

These questions focused on work-related health and safety issues. Respondents were asked about the extent to which they had experienced these work-related health problems in the last 12 months:

  • finding being at work or the work itself stressful
  • physical problems or pain because of work
  • tiredness from work that affected life outside work.

We also asked respondents if they had experienced discrimination, harassment, or bullying at work in the last 12 months. Employees were asked how well health and safety risks were managed in their main job and whether they had reasonable opportunities to take part in improving workplace health and safety.

Parent/caregiver status

Where there was a child in the household aged under 14 years, the respondent was asked if they were a parent or main caregiver to that child.

Satisfaction

We asked respondents about their level of satisfaction with their main job, and overall satisfaction with their work-life balance.

Earnings

We collected information on earnings for all respondents working for pay or profit in their main job or business. For employees, only earnings from the main job was collected. For the self-employed, earnings from all forms of self-employment from the previous 12 months was collected.

Consequences of the HLFS redevelopment

The recent redevelopment of the HLFS has significant consequences for SoWL. Several questions formerly in SoWL are now incorporated in the main HLFS. Also, redesign of the HLFS questionnaire enables us to make greater use of dependent data, meaning that information gathered in the main HLFS does not need to be re-asked in SoWL.

Both these changes create potential for including new questions in SoWL. However, this does not necessarily mean we will introduce a comparable amount of new content in the survey – we may also reduce the size of SoWL, which would alleviate the burden on survey respondents.

The following topics from SoWL are now included in the main HLFS:

  • employment relationship of employees (eg permanent or temporary work arrangement, and type of temporary work arrangement)
  • preference for change from temporary employment relationship or self-employment
  • length of time employed in current job or business
  • whether employees have a written employment agreement, and if they do, whether it is an individual or collective employment agreement
  • whether employees belong to a union.

The redeveloped HLFS also includes new questions designed to get better information about multiple-job holding, underutilisation, and reasons for not currently being employed.

Household Labour Force Survey – summary of 2016 redevelopment has more detail on the HLFS content and the survey’s redevelopment.

We also plan to enhance the content of the HLFS by running a series of short question sets on specific topics – on a periodic or ad hoc basis. Several are scheduled between 2017 and 2020, including the following topics:

  • volunteer work
  • employment transitions
  • redundancies
  • skill-related underemployment
  • types of self-employment.

The ability to attach these to the HLFS means topics that are out of scope for SoWL – because they do not fit the survey’s objectives or require too many questions – may be attached to the HLFS at some time. 

Household surveys programme 2016–20 (second edition) has more detail on these topics and the larger supplements periodically attached to HLFS.

Another option for collecting data on working life is to use administrative and other data held in the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI). When we have determined customers’ information needs, we will look at whether any of these needs can be met from the IDI rather than through SoWL.

A framework for information needs

To identify and prioritise information needs on working life we are using the International Labour Organisation’s Framework on the Measurement of Decent Work (ILO, 2013). The ILO’s Decent Work Agenda encourages promoting full and productive employment, rights at work, social protection, and promoting social dialogue.

The framework, which is designed to improve and harmonise measurement of job quality internationally, covers 10 substantive elements: employment opportunities; adequate earnings and productive work; decent working time; combining work, family and personal life; work that should be abolished; stability and security of work; equal opportunity and treatment in employment; safe work environment; social security; and, social dialogue, employers’ and workers’ representation (see the ILO guidelines [ILO 2013] for full descriptions of these categories).

Table 1 shows how information currently collected in the HLFS and SoWL fits within the ILO framework. Two categories in the framework – work that should be abolished (eg child labour and forced labour) and social security – are unpopulated as they fall outside the scope of these surveys. The other categories are all populated by information from either or both the HLFS and SoWL.

As part of this consultation we want to establish not just whether we are collecting information related to the ILO agenda, but whether the information we are collecting is the most appropriate and whether we should collect any additional information.

Table 1

 ILO Decent Work framework category

 Information currently collected

 HLFS

 SoWL

 Employment opportunities  Labour force status
Under-utilisation
 Employer-funded education and training
 Adequate earnings and productive work  Earnings from employment  
 Decent working time  Hours worked

 Working-time patterns
Working-time preferences
Difficulties due to non-standard hours

 Combining work, family and personal life    Work-life balance
Job flexibility
Work at home
Leave entitlement
 Work that should be abolished    
 Stability and security of work  Employment relationship
Preference for permanent job
Involuntary self-employment
Job tenure
Multiple job holding
 Perceived job security
90-day trials
 Equal opportunity and treatment in employment    Experience of discrimination,
harassment or bullying
 Safe work environment    Work-related health and safety issues
Management of health and safety risks
 Social security    
 Social dialogue, employers’ and workers’ representation  Union membership
Employment agreements
 

We encourage customers to refer to the ILO framework when considering their information needs, as this may help guide them in identifying appropriate topics and where these can fill information gaps. However, we do not intend to adhere too rigidly to the framework. We will consider information needs that may not fit precisely within any framework category but do relate to the broader context of decent work and the objectives of SoWL.

It may also be useful for customers to consult other frameworks:

These frameworks all have similar objectives – being concerned with internationally comparable measurement of the quality of work – and there is considerable overlap between the themes they cover. However, there are also some differences, and people may find these frameworks suggest topics not covered by the ILO’s framework.

We are certainly prepared to consider any such topics for inclusion in SoWL.

How to have your say

If you wish to have input on the redevelopment of SoWL we would like to hear from you. We are particularly interested in your feedback on the following questions:

  • Does the current content of SoWL (in conjunction with the HLFS) meet your information needs about New Zealanders’ employment conditions, working arrangements and job quality?
  • Would you like to see any changes to the topics already included in SoWL – that is, any changes or additions to the information we collected in 2012?
  • Are there any new topics you would like to see included in the survey, and if so what information do you require?
  • Are there any topics in the 2012 SoWL which you think no longer need to be included in the survey, and which could make way for more important topics?

Note: we want to hear about your information needs – the output you would like from the survey – rather than specific questions you want us to ask. Once we finalise the information needs we will work with our questionnaire designers to determine the best way to ask survey respondents for that information.

Assessing topics

The SoWL project team will assess proposals for new topics against these criteria:

  • Have customers identified a strong need for the information for policy, research, or monitoring purposes?
  • Is there currently a lack of good information on the topic from other surveys or administrative data sources?
  • Could the information be obtained from data held in the IDI, rather than being asked as part of SoWL?
  • Is the topic related to SoWL’s objectives and will it help to further those objectives?
  • Is the topic related to the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda and does it fit within any categories of the Framework on the Measurement of Decent Work or other international frameworks?
  • Can the topic be accommodated without posing a risk to the HLFS by significantly increasing respondent burden (either by the number of questions or sensitivity of the information)?
  • Is the subject population and the sample size of the HLFS large enough to provide robust data on the topic?

The consultation process

Initially we’d like you to email us your views on the survey content, focusing on the questions above. We would appreciate your responses by 30 June (see contact details below).

We will collate and assess feedback and use this to draw up a preliminary list of topics to recommend for inclusion in SoWL 2018. We will circulate this list to all who have provided input.

The project team at Stats NZ will reassess the preliminary recommendations, finalise a prioritised list of topics, and inform customers.

We will then begin the questionnaire design process, during which we may consult further with key customers to ensure their information needs are being met.

The key dates for this process are:

 10 July  Consultation closes for online responses
 14 July  Preliminary list of recommended topics sent to customers
 28 July  Closing date for feedback on preliminary recommendations
 11 August  Final prioritised list of topics sent to customers.

Contact details

Contact carrie-anne.lynch@stats.govt.nz, SoWL project manager, to provide feedback on these questions or to discuss the SoWL redevelopment; or call (04) 931 4574.

References

Eurofound (2016). Sixth European Working Conditions Survey – Overview report. Retrieved from www.eurofound.europa.eu.

International Labour Organization (2013). Decent Work Indicators. Retrieved from www.ilo.org.

OECD (2015). Measuring and Assessing Job Quality. Retrieved from www.oecd-ilibrary.org.

Statistics New Zealand (2008). Survey of Working Life: March 2008 quarter. Retrieved from www.stats.govt.nz.

Statistics New Zealand (2013). Survey of Working Life: December 2012 quarter. Retrieved from www.stats.govt.nz.

Statistics New Zealand (2016). Household Labour Force Survey – summary of 2016 redevelopment. Retrieved from www.stats.govt.nz.

Stats NZ (2017). Household surveys programme 2016–20 (second edition). Retrieved from www.stats.govt.nz.

United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (2015). Handbook on Measuring Quality of Employment. Retrieved from www.unece.org.

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