New ESRI research examining the characteristics of minimum wage employment finds that, in addition to being lower paid, minimum wage employees are often in lower quality jobs

Providing high quality jobs is an important part of employment policy in the European Union. Job quality can impact a person’s well-being and can affect economic performance and productivity. A new ESRI study, funded by the Low Pay Commission, examines the quality of minimum wage jobs in Ireland across a range of different measures.The findings of the study show that, compared to higher paid workers, most job quality indicators show that minimum wage jobs are of lower quality.  

Specifically, the research shows that, compared to higher paid workers,  

  • Minimum wage employees experience more job insecurity, because they are ten percentage points more likely to fear job loss and to hold temporary employment contracts.They are also five percentage points more likely to want to work more hours than they currently do.
  • Minimum wage employees are 20 percentage points less likely to be members of a trade union and have less access to flexible work options such as working from home.
  • Minimum wage employees are more likely to work longer shifts (more than 10 hours) that coincide with more unsocial times (Saturdays and Sundays),and to work in jobs in which their skills are not fully utilized.

However, while most job quality indicators point to minimum wage jobs being of lower quality, minimum wage employees are more likely to have more choice in terms of who they work with and their working hours. Minimum wage employees are also more likely to work with bosses who are more successful in encouraging people to work together. 

Dr Paul Redmond, an author of the report said, “When thinking about the labour market, we often talk about the number of jobs available. However, as well as the quantity of jobs, an important consideration is the quality of jobs. Our research has shown that minimum wage workers, in addition to being on low pay, also face lower job quality as measured by a range of job characteristics. Low job quality may have negative impacts on a person’s well-being. Therefore, the combination of low pay and other potentially unfavourable job quality measures is of particular concern for individuals that are long-term minimum wage employees.” 

Ultan Courtney, Chairperson of the Low Pay Commission, commented, “While much of the previous research on minimum wage workers has focused on topics such as the impact of minimum wage legislation or on the characteristics of minimum wage workers, this interesting study takes a fresh approach. It asks if minimum wage workers have the same quality of work as non-minimum wage workers. The research, finds that, by most examined indicators, minimum wage workers have lower job quality than non-minimum wage workers. This is an important finding and highlights the need to consider indicators other than income when evaluating the job quality of minimum wage workers.”