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Country Context Studies

The Country Context Studies bring together the expertise of an international community of collaborators.  Researchers gather and analyze data that describe employment situations in their own countries of origin, with the aim of detailing the different perceptions of quality of employment.  As a group, the research team provides high-quality information, comparable “country to country,” about the context of work for today’s global, multi-generational workforce.

The Country Context Studies use existing data to:

  • Provide demographic, workplace, and social statistics on various countries to employers, scholars, and others.
  • Investigate the differences in quality of employment, both by country and by age.
  • Prepare overviews of policies within a country that affect quality of employment across the life course.

The study is funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.    


Country Profiles             

“Mind the Gap” Reports 

Public Policy Briefs        


For more information on Country Context Studies, or to schedule a conversation with any of the Center’s team, please contact:

617-552-9195 |

key research questions

The Country Context Study was completed in January 2011. Questions asked by the study include:

  • How does country matter in quality of employment?
  • What cultural, policy, and economic factors play a role?
  • How does age matter in quality of employment?
  • Are workers of different ages interested in different aspects of quality employment? Are they offered different levels of quality employment?
  • How does country and age intersect?
  • What lessons can employers learn about individual countries and about aging around the globe in general?

key findings (2009-2010)


  • A common practice and priority among Australian employers in establishing quality of employment promoting employee well-being is the implementation of engagement activities: 96% of employers use some type of engagement activities, with flexible work options and financial incentives. Among flexible work options, family and caregiver leave and part-time work are the most common.


  • China’s 2008 Labor Contract Law, which builds on the 1995 Labor Law, changes the employer-employee relationship by empowering employees and protecting worker’s rights: The law increases regulations on written labor contracts, use of temporary workers and severance pay; Applies to all employers, no matter how few employees a business has; Requires all labor contracts to be in writing and imposes significant penalties on employers for failing to comply; and Enables employees to claim double salary for months worked without a contract for up to 12 month’s salary.


  • Denmark has a high labor force participation rate, with 78% of the working age population (15-64) in the labor force in 2008. An important reason for such a high rate is that Danish women work more than in many other European countries. In addition, the unemployment rate in Denmark decreased from 10% in 1995 to 2.9% in 2009, and the self-employment rate is very low compared to the EU-15 average, 6% and 15% respectively.


  • Older employees in France appear to have a greater sense of job security and more control of their work/holiday schedules than employees in other age groups. However, older workers face more difficulties in getting support and help at work from fellow colleagues. In addition, older employees were most likely to strongly disagree that their jobs provide them with learning and growth opportunities (21.9%).


  • The German economy started to contract in 2008 as a result of a strong Euro, tighter credit markets, increasing oil prices as well as slow growth, which impacted Germany’s export oriented economy. GDP growth was 1.3% in 2008, and is projected to reach negative growth in 2009.


  • Child labor is a grave and widespread problem in India covering a number of sectors. According to the 2002 Census: There are 12.66 million working children under the age of fourteen years in India; A vast majority of working children are outside the scope of formal industry sectors because they reside in rural areas, working predominantly in agricultural activities such as fan making, livestock rearing, forestry and fisheries; and 90% of working children work within a family setting.


  • 20.3% of the Irish population is employed part-time, the highest of other EU27 countries. (The EU27 part-time average is 18.2%, and OECD country average is 15.4%).


  • Workplaces in Italy are more likely to report the availability of programs for minority ethnic groups, older workers, people with disabilities, and women than those in the other European countries considered. Italy seems to make a relatively large use of employees’ performance assessment as a way to understand training, development, and organizational needs. On the other hand, workplaces in Italy are less likely to report the availability of opportunities for learning and development for their employees.


  • One of the current problems in Japan is labor shortage and the employment gap. The employment gap separates desirable jobs from undesirable ones, and permanent/regular employees from temporary/part-time/irregular employees. Movement between the groups is difficult, and differences in pay and benefits make quality of life drastically different in the two groups. The balance sought in Japan today is one between the need for more jobs and achieving a satisfactory level of job quality for all workers. Japan’s post-war workplace culture developed much without the quality insurances necessary in so large and powerful an economy, and now public policy is working maintain an adequate number of job while maintaining and improving quality life for workers and the elder members of Japan’s aging population.


  • Kenya’s economic growth has been hampered by government instability, widespread corruption, drought, and the AIDS pandemic. However, despite 40% unemployment and an average life expectancy of only 53 years, the country registered GDP growth in 2007 of approximately 6%.


  • Mexico has lower median ages for both males and females, compared to Canada and the United States. The majority of the population is under the age of 25 in Mexico.


  • In Singapore, a key concern is to encourage employers to adopt workplace flexibility and family-friendly benefits and practices. 9.4% of employers offered flexible working arrangements in 2008, including part-time, staggered hours, flextime, teleworking, and home-working. Only 1.5% of private sector employers offered childcare benefits, as of 2003, and only 4.5% offered paid leave to employees for elderly dependent care.

South Africa

  • South Africa's limited social welfare protection of the informal, mostly unregulated economy is leaving nearly 30% of the country's workforce vulnerable. Currently in South Africa, an estimated 29.6% of the workforce is active in the informal economy. Also, workers aged 15-19 and 65 and older are more likely to work in the informal economy.

South Korea

  • South Korea is anticipating unprecedented workforce shortages in the decade ahead owing to rapid aging of the population and low fertility rates. Therefore, the old-age dependency ratio is expected to jump from 15% in 2007 to 77% in 2050. This is the highest increase among OECD countries. South Korean government has been working on efforts to support employment and increase training opportunities for the aged and women to alleviate anticipated labor force shortages, but the policy makers are facing several challenges: In the context of current high and rising youth unemployment, especially among college graduates in South Korea, some reforms to promote employability of the elderly may exacerbate concerns that those efforts come at the expense of a younger population; The number of older adults participating in the publicly-funded training is relatively small compared to those of younger population; Because many governmental agencies and programs are involved in aging policies, such as pension systems, employment practices, income supports, and training opportunities, these measures have overlapped and have different expectations, making it difficult to integrate policies within a broader picture.


  • Among all Spaniards: About 37% of Spanish employees report that they think their health or safety is at risk because of their work, including fully 45% of males; 21.4% reported stress at work; 40% reported they rarely or almost never found their jobs to be intellectually demanding; and Nearly 70% of Spanish employees are likely to work fixed start and finish times, making Spain less flexible than most EU countries.


  • Sweden has one of the highest levels of gender equality in the world and offers generous parental leave. This is one of the reasons for the high levels of economically active women. Parental allowance is paid for 480 days when a child is born or adopted. In 2008, men claimed about 20% of the parental leave. The maximum allowance is about $110 USD a day.

United Kingdom

  • UK workers have the longest working hours in Europe, and among all UK employees, those at middle-age have the longest—33.71 hours/week. Nearly one quarter (23%) of UK employees feel disengaged from their workplaces. Further, almost 4 in 10 UK workers disagreed that they are paid well for the job they do, with younger people being more dissatisfied than middle-age or older workers.

United States

  • A culture of respect, inclusion & equity has been achieved for employees in the US through federal laws regarding employment discrimination: Title V11 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The law applies to both private and public sector employers with 15 or more employees; The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits discrimination based on age. In 1967 the United States was one of the first countries to recognize age discrimination; The Americans with Disabilities Act, enacted in 1990, prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities; The Family and Medical Leave Act entitles an employee to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave per year for the care of a newborn or newly adopted child; care of a child, parent, or spouse with a serious health condition, or care for oneself due to a serious health condition.
country context study team


Karin E. Anell, MA
Adjunct Faculty Member
Bunker Hill College
Rucha Bhate
Graduate Research Assistant
Sloan Center on Aging & Work, Boston College
Doctoral Student
Department of Economics, Boston College
Libby Brooke
Director of Research
Swinburne University of Technology
  4 Quai des Etroits
René Carapinha, MSW
Doctoral Candidate
Graduate School of Social Work, Boston College
Mathew Flynn, PhD
Senior Lecturer
Middlesex University Business School
Shanyuan Foo, MA
Graduate Research Assistant
Marc Grau i Grau, MBA
Doctoral Candidate
Social Policy at the University of Edinburgh
Masa Higo, PhD
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Anderson University

Dirk Hofacker
State Institute for Family Research
University of Bamberg
  Shoghik Hovhannisyan, MA
Research Assistant
  Haesang Jeon, MSW
Graduate Research Assistant
Jungui Lee, PhD
Research Fellow
Division of Lifelong Education Policy, National Institute for Lifelong Education
Suzan Lewis, PhD
Professor, Organizational Psychology
Middlesex University Business School
  Jean McCarthy
Doctoral Student and Lecturer, Department of Personnel and Employment Relations
University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
Tay K. McNamara, PhD
Co-Director of Research, Secondary Data Studies
Sloan Center on Aging & Work, Boston College
Julie A. Norstrand
Doctoral Student
Graduate School of Social Work, Boston College
Ariane Ollier-Malaterre, PhD
Professor of Management
EDHEC Business School, France.
  Nngozi Onyejeli
Doctoral Student
Middlesex University
Chiara Paolino
PhD Candidate
Bocconi School of Management, Milan, Italy
Emma Parry, PhD
Research Fellow, Human Resource Research Centre
Cranfield University School of Management
Farooq Pasha, MA
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Economics, Boston College
Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, PhD
Sloan Center on Aging & Work, Boston College
Graducate School of Social Work & Caroll School of Management, Boston College
  Rea Prouska, PhD
Senior Lecturer, Human Resource Management
Middlesex University Business School
Laura Ruiz Perez, PhD
Dean of Social Programs
Virtual University
Heike Schroeder
PhD Candidate
Middlesex University Business School
  Chantel Sheaks
Executive Vice President/Principal of Government Affairs
Buck Consultants
  Cornelia Spross, MA
German Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
Philip Taylor, PhD
Director, Research and Graduate Studies

Monash University, Gippsland Campus
Qingwen Xu, PhD
Associate Professor of Social Work
Tulane University