Downward flexibility: who is willing to take an inferior job?

Shaun Wilson*, Markus Hadler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Most workers look forward to better jobs across their careers, but in an age of rising inequality and insecurity at work, some are willing to accept an inferior job in order to avoid joblessness. We use the Work Orientations III survey from the 2005 International Social Survey Programme to explore such ‘downward flexibility’ and develop several regression models specified for 19 OECD countries to test hypotheses and explore macro- and individual-level variations. Workers in liberal ‘labour market regimes’ are more tolerant of downward adaptations, in line with evidence that these regimes produce strongly institutionalized norms of flexibility. Tolerance of a worse job is also higher among those with weak labour market positions (low-income respondents, women and young people). Further macro-level analysis suggests that the ‘model’ country with the most downwardly flexible workers would be rich and unequal, with weak unions and low levels of social protection and industrial rights.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-204
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Industrial Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • deregulation
  • International Social Survey Programme
  • labour market regimes
  • neoliberalism
  • sociology of work
  • welfare regimes
  • work orientations


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