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The quality of work (QoW): towards a capability theory

Stephens, Thomas C. ORCID: 0000-0001-6190-8029 (2023) The quality of work (QoW): towards a capability theory. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 24 (3). 309 - 335. ISSN 1945-2829

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Identification Number: 10.1080/19452829.2023.2240738


This paper introduces a comprehensive conceptual framework for measuring the Quality of Work (QoW) using the Capability Approach (CA). Drawing from [Robeyns, Ingrid. 2017. Wellbeing, Freedom and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re-Examined. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers.] modular framework for developing Capability Theories, it proposes we conceive of work as a body of resources existing in a “space” of work. Dimensions of QoW can be identified based on how work resources enhance, or impede, the achievement of important “beings and doings” (Functionings) both inside (intrinsic importance) or outside (instrumental) this space–such as intrinsic Functionings like meaningful work; or instrumental Functionings like family- and life-fulfilment. However, it further argues that many approaches to QoW are under-specified, since they neglect the crucial ways that peoples’ wider circumstances, outside this space of work, determine peoples’ overall work-related wellbeing. This calls for indices of multi-dimensional QoW to also measure (a) the range of wider Functionings people could achieve outside their current work activity (the Capability Set); and (b) personal, social, and environmental factors which affect how work resources are converted into Functionings (Conversion Factors). It is only by taking these circumstances into account that indices can capture the true impact of the worst forms of work, by understanding who is forced to engage in this work.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author
Divisions: School of Public Policy
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Social Policy
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences
JEL classification: J - Labor and Demographic Economics > J8 - Labor Standards: National and International > J80 - General
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2023 16:00
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2024 21:54

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