Stjórnmál og Stjórnsýsla (Dec 2016)

"The joy of work is gone, just a heavy workload and tough working conditions and little joy" - correlation between economic collapse and the working environment of public employees

  • Hjördís Sigursteinsdóttir

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 2
pp. 417 – 442


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The year 2008 marked the beginning of a great recession worldwide and Iceland became one of the first countries in Europe to be affected by the international crisis. The effects of the crisis were widely spread in the community and even though its negative impact was more strongly felt in the private sector, it also had a large impact on the public sector, particularly municipalities. The aim of this study was to examine how municipal employees experienced job satisfaction, workload, job security, satisfaction with management and how management cares for the health and wellbeing of employees two, three, and five years aftir the economic collapse in 2008. In addition, the study addresses the question of whether factors in the work environment as well as personal factors can predict the likelihood of job satisfaction. Mixed methods were used (questionnaires and focus group interviews) to gather data. The results showed a decline in job satisfaction following the economic crisis, mainly due to cost- cutting management. Working condictions worsened significantly as time passed and this was manifested in staff reductions, increased workload, declined job security, more dissatisfaction with management and less care for the health and wellbeing of employees, especially in workplaces where manpower had been downsized. Redundancies at work was the best predictor for job satisfaction (OR=0.590), reflecting less job satisfaction. Furthermore, other hygiene factors make a statistical contribution to the model. It is important that managers are aware of the work-related wellbeing of employees, especially in times of economic recession, not only among employees that have been hit hardest but also those who are normally considered to have greater job security, such as municipal employees.