Researcher finds many factors impact work satisfaction for older rural workers

May 10th, 2013

by Susan White-MacPherson

Dr. Gordon Cooke, Faculty of Business Administration
Researcher finds many factors impact work satisfaction for older rural workers

Research exploring how rural workers in Newfoundland and Ireland view the quality of their professional lives has been published in a major international journal.

The Nuanced Nature of Work Quality: Evidence from Rural Newfoundland and Ireland, co-authored by Dr. Gordon Cooke, associate professor of industrial relations at Memorial Faculty of Business Administration, has been published in the current issue of Human Relations.

“This study provides empirical support for our presumption that the way individuals perceive job quality can be highly context-specific,” said Dr. Cooke. “First, our participants tended to view the broad role of work in their lives rather than focus on a specific job. Second, this study shows that the role of work in their lives can be far less important than other factors, like family and location, for some of these older, rural individuals.”

Conducted between 2009 and 2010, the research project focused on individuals over 40 years of age; information was gathered from 88 rural workers in Newfoundland and Ireland. The study was co-authored by Dr. Jimmy Donaghey, University of Warwick, and Dr. Isik Zeytinoglu, DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University.                                                                                          

Through one-on-one and group interviews, the researchers looked at the relationship between job and work quality. They argued that a broader concept of work quality, as opposed to the more narrowly-focused concept of job quality, provides a greater understanding of worker experiences, particularly in rural areas.

They concluded that factors such as age, family status, gender, local labour market conditions, proximity to family and the ancestral home, community vibrancy and lifestyle preferences all play an important role in determining workers’ satisfaction with their professional lives.

“The findings from this study are a reminder of the wants and needs of older, rural individuals,” said Dr. Cooke. “The participants in our study are industrious, hard-working people. When work is available locally, they take it. It suggests to us that economic development funds should be spent so as to provide modest employment improvements in a broad range of communities rather than significant improvements in a small range of communities.”

Human Relations is an international, peer-review journal that publishes original research focused on advancing the understanding of social relationships at and around work and work organizations. The study was funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Dr. Cooke has examined a range of non-standard work arrangements within Canada and beyond. His current research explores comparisons of employment conditions in rural Newfoundland and other island jurisdictions.





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