The Impact of Country Context on Employee Job Satisfaction: An Application of the World-Systems Framework

Article excerpt

Using Non-panel longitudinal data from the International Social Survey Program (Work Orientations I, II, and III: 1989, 1997, 2005-survey questions on job characteristics and job quality) and various country-contextual variables, this research applies and extends Wallerstein's (1974, 2000) world systems framework to better understand country-level factors influencing cross-national differences in job characteristics and job satisfaction. This article explores the impact of the world-system on job satisfaction, first identifying and explaining the foundations of the world-system literature, and then using various statistical methods to test for statistically significant impact and variation across countries. Results found significant differences across countries and supported the hypotheses that a country's position within the economic world system impacts the saliency of intrinsic and extrinsic work rewards and characteristics among workers within that country.

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Introduction

Job satisfaction continues to generate interest across disciplines, from psychology and sociology, to economics, management sciences, and public administration (Happock's, 1935; Hunt and Saul, 1975; Freeman, 1978; Kalleberg and Loscocco, 1983; Hodson, 1985; Argyle, 1989; Durst and DeSantis, 1997; Hamermesh, 2001; Wright and Kim, 2004; Jung et al., 2007). Satisfied workers are more productive (Appelbaum and Kamal, 2000), deliver higher quality of work (Tietjen and Myers, 1998), and improve a firm's competitiveness and success (Garrido et al., 2005). Conversely, unsatisfied workers are more frequently late for work, absent from work, and motivated to leave the firm (Blau, 1994; Lee, 1998). Additionally, researchers have suggested an increasing importance in the role that our work plays in our everyday lives, with the landscape of work in the U.S. and across the world changing dramatically in response to economic shifts and an increasingly global economy (e.g. Handel, 2005; Jamison et al., 2004). While the vast cross-disciplinary literature exploring work quality and job satisfaction has linked worker experiences to many individual, organizational, and social outcomes, existing research has largely failed to shed much light on why cross-national differences in worker satisfaction and its determinants persist over time. An often accepted job satisfaction model, commonly considered to be widely generalizable across a wide variety of crosscultural and cross-national contexts, actually appears to have a lack of applicability across countries (see Westover, 20 1 1 , 20 1 0a, 20 1 0b; Taylor and Westover, 20 1 1 ; Westover and Taylor, 2010).

The overall purpose in conducting this research is to (1) empirically test (using various bivariate descriptive procedures and comparative OLS regression) significant, crossnational differences in job satisfaction and its determents and (2) explore the reasons for these cross-national differences, moving beyond the research of social psychologists and organizational behavior researchers, to also include import macro cross-national factors that directly influence these differences.

The Conceptualization of Job Satisfaction

Job satisfaction has been conceptualized in different ways, from the degree to which people like their jobs, to the degree of fit between the features of a job and workers' expectations, to job satisfaction as a multidimensional attitude of workers towards their jobs and work places (Kristof-Brown, 1996; Clark and Oswald, 1996; Spector, 1997; Davis and Newstrom, 1999; Traut et al., 2000; Hamermesh, 2001; EUickson, 2002; Tutuncu and Kozak, 2007). Additionally, theorists and researchers alike have often looked at job satisfaction in terms of nonmaterial (intrinsic) and nonmaterial (extrinsic) rewards (Handel 2005; Kalleberg 1977).

Overview of the World System-Job satisfaction Link

There are various explanations for why and how job satisfaction and its work determinants may differ cross-nationally, based on national contextual factors. …