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Convergences and disparities of work orientations among recent graduates in Portugal

Convergências e disparidades de orientações de trabalho entre os recém-licenciados em Portugal
Convergences et disparités d’orientations professionnelles chez les jeunes diplômés au Portugal
Convergencias y disparidades de las orientaciones laborales entre los recien egresados en Portugal
Miguel Chaves   , Madalena Ramos e Rui Santos
p. 9-29


Procurámos identificar os padrões de valores do trabalho numa amostra de licenciados de duas universidades de Lisboa e averiguar se as diferenças entre orientações intrínsecas e extrínsecas são explicáveis por fatores estruturais determinantes das condições materiais de existência. Encontrámos três padrões transversais: “maximalismo” das aspirações; importância do emprego para a autonomização financeira face aos pais; e uma maior importância concedida às recompensas intrínsecas do que às extrínsecas. Os resultados sugerem que a variação na importância dos valores intrínsecos e extrínsecos está pouco correlacionada com as diferenças das condições materiais de existência, e que estes licenciados tendem a ajustar as suas orientações de valor face ao trabalho à avaliação das recompensas objetivamente obtidas com o emprego.

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1A number of national and cross-national studies investigating work orientations have included higher education graduates in their populations. However, few focus exclusively on the top of the formative hierarchy so as to obtain a detailed understanding of the distinct orientations within it. Even within university graduates, the population varies in many ways; among which age and generation, training fields, social backgrounds, and positions attained in the occupational structure.

2Coupling the relative homogeneity of the educational level with the considerable heterogeneity in other domains raises two questions. Firstly, are there important commonalities in work orientations within this population, or else does the heterogeneity of social backgrounds and situations prevail in work values differentiation? Secondly, can eventual differences in graduates’ work orientations be explained by structural aspects such as “social origins”, “areas of training” and “situation in the occupational structure”? Or should other variables be used to explain these variations?

3We strive to address these questions by examining the universe of recent graduates from two of Portugal’s biggest universities — Universidade de Lisboa (UL) and Universidade Nova de Lisboa (UNL) — who are in the same stage of transition to the labor market, as part of ongoing wider research on Portuguese university graduates’ paths within the labor market. By focusing specifically on university graduates, we aim to highlight the commonalities and differences associated with structural and occupational factors, rather than the more widely studied variation between educational attainment levels.

 Explaining work values

4Following the seminal works of authors like Herzberg, Mausner and Snyderman (1959), research on work orientations has frequently drawn on the concept of work values, defined as “beliefs about the desirability of various work features […] usually defined by referencing several types of rewards derived from working” (Johnson, 2001a: 317).

5Work values have often been used as independent variables, to predict vocational aspirations and occupational choices (Judge and Bretz Jr., 1992; Super and Sverko, 1995); job changes (Andrisani and Miljus, 1976; Jordaan and Super, 1974), or job satisfaction and dissatisfaction (Belcher and Atchison, 1976; Kalleberg, 1977).

6A less pursued interpretive approach seeks to understand how work values are framed in broader value systems, notably in “life values” like those defined, for instance, by Rokeach (1973) and Schwartz (2006).

7This study contributes to yet another, complementary strand in the literature on work values, which seeks to explain their variation and therefore takes them as dependent variables. We aim to assess to what extent relevant structural factors are implicated in the formation and differentiation of such values among graduates.

8We shall focus on two types of work values: extrinsic and intrinsic. The former refer to the importance individuals give to the consequences arising from the fact that they work or to working conditions (e.g., pay, security, career prospects, working environment) irrespective of the nature of work (Johnson and Mortimer, 2011). Intrinsic values, on the other hand, refer to the importance individuals attribute to the rewards obtained from the nature of the work itself (e.g., opportunity to express one’s interests and abilities). Granted that these two categories are hardly sufficient to describe the diversity of aspects individuals value through or at work, the persistence of this duality in the last decades (Twenge et al., 2010) and the fact that it continues to predominate in the most recent value grids (Jin and Rounds, 2012) attests that it does tie the most significant aspects together.

 Work values and levels of education

9Over the past four decades, most studies that examined how the level of education affected work values have stated that the importance given to the intrinsic orientations tends to rise as the level of education increases, while that attributed to extrinsic factors tends to fall. Inglehart (1990, 1997) and Klages (1992), among others, found that rising education levels in a society coincide with the increase in post-materialist and self-fulfillment values, including intrinsic job values in the specific sphere of labor. Several cross-national studies corroborated this relationship. For example, Tarnai and associates used data from the International Social Survey Program (1989 survey) on nine European countries and found that: “Persons with higher education attribute disproportionately more importance to intrinsic values (interesting job, to work independently) than is the case for the other levels of education” (Tarnai et al., 1995: 163).

10Studies of nationwide samples obtained similar conclusions. Lindsay and Knox (1984: 920) found that in the US, “The more education, the more likely people are to value the intrinsic rewards of work and the less likely they are to value the extrinsic ones”. In turn, Maag (1991) demonstrated that more educated Germans did not attribute as much importance to values like “high income” and “job security” as did less educated ones. Vinken (2007: 16-17) found more educated Dutch youths to be “less supportive of material work values” and most supportive of “expressive work values”.

11Concerning Portugal, Vala (2000) used data from the 1997 ISSP survey to find that higher levels of education overlap with an over-emphasis on intrinsic work values. He does point out that in three out of five countries included in this survey, the prominence of intrinsic values appears to be directly related to social class, more specifically to the “new bourgeoisie”, rather than to levels of education (Vala, 2000: 77-78). Nevertheless, this is precisely the class most likely to have the largest amount of school capital.

12A number of different though not irreconcilable conjectures have been advanced to explain this relationship. The first suggests that individuals who value intrinsic rewards tend to invest more in education, because, to begin with, they believe that going through a long period of formal education is a prerequisite to earn this kind of reward in the work sphere (Johnson and Elder Jr., 2002). This interpretation thus places the valorization of intrinsic rewards upstream of higher education, placing the explanatory locus on earlier-life socialization.

13A second conjecture argues that the importance given to intrinsic values results from school socialization itself (Johnson and Elder Jr., 2002; Lindsay and Knox, 1984). On one hand, formal education fosters the idea that it is important not only to develop “knowledge”, “creativity” and “intellectual capabilities” as values in their own right, but also as a means to attaining self-realization; on the other hand, it encourages “cognitive complexity”, which may in turn facilitate the inculcation and pursuit of such values (Vala, 2000: 76). According to this interpretation, higher education would countervail differences due to earlier socialization and homogenize work value orientations among graduates, as compared to earlier diversity in their backgrounds.

14Finally, a third conjecture suggests that higher levels of education lead to expectations of better-paid and more secure employment. By relieving individuals of material restrictions in their life choices, this leads to a rise in self-expression values because the individual can go beyond mere survival and focus on higher goals (Inglehart and Welzel, 2005). This latter explanation converges with Maslowian theory of motivation, which we will discuss in the following section.

 Structural dimensions of the socio-genesis of work values

15Sociological analyses have extensively explored the hypothesis that material living conditions together with socializing experiences play an important role in creating and modifying work orientations and, as such, have predictive relevance in how they are distributed differently in the social space.

16One of the theoretical traditions in line with this hypothesis goes back to Maslow’s (1954) hierarchical theory of motivation, according to which higher level needs only motivate behavior once lower level needs are sufficiently satisfied; the lowest and most constraining of all being physiological, followed by security needs. Conversely, once a need has been satisfied for long enough, it becomes less motivating. Mortimer and Lorence include the concept of work values in this theory:

17when the individual has inadequate economic resources, income and the other extrinsic benefits of work assume the highest priority. When material needs are satisfied, the salience of extrinsic rewards decreases as the worker’s attention turns to other, more intrinsic job satisfactions. (1979: 1362)

18Maslow’s theory of motivation has been empirically tested in various contexts (Flanagan, Strauss, and Ulman, 1974; Mortimer and Lorence, 1979; Tay and Diener, 2011) and is explicitly acknowledged in the abovementioned studies by Inglehart. While Inglehart states that the link between socio-economic factors and priority values is not immediate, his post-materialist culture thesis argues that “as the basic economic and physical security of individuals is met, values reflecting these needs are given a lower priority in relation to other, conflicting values” (Knutsen, 1990: 85-86). Although the evolution of values is generally discussed in relation with the level of economic development of different societies, Inglehart’s thesis is also called upon to explain the differences within the same society: people with higher income, higher educational level and jobs in the service sector tend to place greater emphasis on self-expression values (Inglehart and Welzel, 2005).

19The main alternative way to conceptualize the relationship between structural factors and work orientations is epitomized in contemporary sociology by Pierre Bourdieu’s adjustment theory, according to which the formation of subjective values and aspirations derives largely from a process of generative adjustment to the objective probabilities of their accomplishment, which are inscribed in the social structure:

20It never ceases to amaze how well fitted wills are to possibilities, the desires to the power to satisfy them; […] and this even in societies in which the generalization of education, bringing about structural disqualification linked to the devaluation of school certificates, and the generalization of wage insecurity made more frequent the maladjustment between expectations and opportunities. (Bourdieu, 1998: 194)

21Although some of the most important contemporary authors in the study of work values pointed out the heuristic potential of Bourdieu’s adjustment theory, and Bourdieu himself suggested in his later works the need to further research on work orientations (Bourdieu, 1996, 1998), his assumptions were much less mobilized in quantitative studies on work orientations than those of the Maslowian kind. Several reasons may explain this relative underutilization; among which, the fact that Bourdieu’s theory is less univocal than Maslow’s, which makes it harder to translate into empirically testable hypotheses. For example, in spite of the previous proposition, Bourdieu also stressed the relevance of anomic imbalances between subjective expectations and objective possibilities (e.g., 1979: 161).

22Maslow’s and Bourdieu’s theoretical outlooks thus suggest different and largely contradictory arguments to account for sociogenetic relations between individuals’ structural positions or situations and the variation in their work values. Nevertheless, both acknowledge the importance of certain variables as markers of these structural positions or situations.

 Study design

Analytical model

23As we have indicated, our main goals are to assess the extent to which our graduates share common work orientations, and whether there are significant empirical relations between structural factors and work values. Secondarily, we try to assess the usefulness of two alternative explanatory frameworks, one based on Maslow’s theory of motivation and the other on Bourdieu’s theory of adjustment, to account to such relations as we may find. We should add at the outset that the model is better suited to test hypotheses in the Maslowian line than in Bourdieu’s. Thus this article approaches the latter in a more exploratory way than the former, as specified below.

24For work value orientations, we drew on the typology underlying the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) questionnaire, which breaks down work values into extrinsic, intrinsic, altruistic, social and leisure (Cabral, Vala, and Freire, 2000). This has been used for various studies in Portugal and therefore fosters the comparison and accumulation of data.

25We have used three independent variables to describe structural positions or situations: (i) the social status of the family of origin; (ii) the training area; and (iii) the individuals’ concrete occupational situations. Including these three variables in the same model allows us to consider the variation of work values in the light of structural aspects that are related to different moments in individual trajectories.

26(i) Social status of the family of origin: the socio-occupational status of the family of origin determines the material living conditions facing the individuals at the beginning of their social trajectories, with lasting effects throughout their life courses. It is well documented in the Portuguese case (Chaves, 2010) as in numerous other contexts that the family’s social capital and income level play an important role in providing the offspring with affluence and security that facilitate their entry and permanence in the labor market.

27Under Maslowian theory of motivation, the less someone’s family has suffered from serious financial and material constraints, the earlier and more intensely they will tend to value the intrinsic elements of work and the less they will channel subjective investments into obtaining extrinsic job rewards. In short, these assumptions lead to hypothesize that the family status should be positively correlated with intrinsic and negatively correlated with extrinsic value orientations.

28Hypotheses in this vein have been empirically explored in several studies that sought to clarify the relationship between the parents’ socio-economic status and the variations in work values (Johnson, 2002; Kohn and Schooler, 1983; Lindsay and Knox, 1984; Mortimer et al., 1996). Focusing on the “pay”, “prestige”, “high regard” and “job security” in a population of teenagers and adults, Kohn and Schooler’s (1983) pioneering study found evidence of associations in line with this hypothesis, while also attributing the differentiated emergence of values in different classes to parents disseminating and inscribing the orientations in their offspring, enabling them to have a greater chance of success in their own jobs. However, they stressed that the negative association of social class with extrinsic orientations was far more significant than the positive association with intrinsic orientations. Recent results in Johnson and Mortimer (2011) converge with these results, albeit considerably attenuated; they only found a clear negative association between the family of origin’s income and the importance of extrinsic values.

29Hypotheses based on adjustment theory about the bearing of family status on work orientations play more limited part in our model than those emanating from the Maslowian tradition. Concerning extrinsic values, it would assume, contrary to motivation theory, that graduates adjust their work values to the objective chances afforded by their families’ economic and social capital, and since graduates from more capitalized backgrounds are more likely to get safer and higher income jobs, family status should be positively correlated with the valuation of extrinsic aspects of work. It is not clear how differences in family status would relate with either objectively unequal chances or subjective expectations of getting intrinsic rewards from work. Thus adjustment theory provides no hypotheses relating family status and intrinsic work values.

30(ii) Concrete occupational situation: the influence of the concrete situation in which a given job is performed on the formation of individuals’ work orientations is well established in sociological research. We addressed two dimensions of the occupational situation: job status that combining the position in the occupational stratification, the level of earnings and job security, and the subjective assessment of perceived rewards provided by the job. The concept and standardized typology of job rewards has been very common in survey research that use work values typologies in order to define and systematize the attributes that characterize and distinguish the reality of each concrete professional situation. The designations of job rewards are homologous to the values, thus giving rise to related typologies. The relationship is clear in the definition of work values presented above (Johnson, 2002), since it explicitly refers to the evaluation of different types of rewards derived from working.

31Several studies state that working conditions affect the importance individuals place on extrinsic and intrinsic values. Under theory of motivation assumptions, greater security and material prosperity of work situations should be positively correlated with intrinsic values and negatively correlated with extrinsic values. Research results show that the emphasis on extrinsic values is greater in lower occupational strata, while intrinsic values become more important as occupational prestige increases and extrinsic rewards are higher and safer (Centers and Bugental, 1966; Harry, 1975; Kohn, 1969; Kohn and Schooler, 1983). However, some of studies that assessed the predictive potential of job rewards in the formation and variation of work values using Maslow-inspired hypotheses actually reported patterns of findings that disprove them (Hall and Nougaim, 1968; Mortimer and Lorence, 1979).

32According to adjustment theory, the assumptions are distinct: individuals will tend to impart more importance to such rewards as they believe they can actually achieve in their specific work situation. Therefore, each kind of work values, intrinsic or extrinsic, should acquire more importance the more the individuals believe that their concrete job actually affords those kinds of rewards. The important longitudinal study by Mortimer and Lorence (1979) implicitly anticipated the debate between the need-motivation and adjustment theories. As stated, their results did not support the Maslowian hypothesis that “high levels of occupational rewards engender a decrease in extrinsic concerns”, suggesting instead that “[…] since intrinsic rewards (as well as extrinsic) increase directly with occupational status, the high evaluation of intrinsic satisfactions on the part of the higher social class groups may develop through processes of reinforcement” (id., ibid.: 1378-1379). Since this basically means the reinforcement provided by concrete occupational experiences, it follows that the variation in work values, extrinsic or intrinsic, may be explained by a process that obviously ties in with Bourdieu’s adjustment theory.

33(iii) Training area: far less explored in the literature than the previous, this variable takes on particular relevance as the universe under consideration consists of university graduates that have recently entered the labor market. In this study, unlike in most literature, the level of education is therefore a constant; however, a source of variation may lie in the specific area in which the degrees were obtained. In terms of the individual trajectory, this structural element is positioned between social origins and occupational situations and it may impact the development of work values.

34Of the different ways in which the training area may affect work values, we will explore those that derive from the fact that these areas give individuals unequal expectations in terms of access to job security and wage conditions. Accordingly, the assumptions of theory of motivation would lead to hypothesize that those areas of training most threatened by unemployment and precarious job situations should favor extrinsic values; while those associated with better prospects of employment and job security should favor intrinsic values.

35Conversely, according to Bourdieu’s adjustment theory the areas of training that are objectively associated with better employment prospects and more secure jobs should favor extrinsic values. However, the same as with the status of the family of origin, we find no clear theoretical argument that could relate the employment prospects objectively associated with the training areas with the individuals’ orientations to intrinsic work values.

Participants and procedures

36The subjects are a random sample of 1004 graduates from Universidade de Lisboa (UL, 597 subjects) and Universidade Nova de Lisboa (UNL, 407 subjects) who completed their degree in the 2004/05 school year (from a universe of 4290 graduates, 2560 from UL and 1730 from UNL). The graduates of these two schools correspond to 17% of the total graduates from Portuguese universities in that school year. The average age is 30.6 (5.3 standard deviation) and 75% were aged up to 31 years. The training areas of the graduates are Arts and Humanities, followed by Health, Physics, Education, Law, Life Sciences, Journalism and Social Sciences, Economics and Management, Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Sciences and Engineering, Construction and Manufacturing Industries (see appendix A). A structured questionnaire was administered in a phone survey between November 2010 and January 2011.

Data and measurement

37(a) Work values: we used ISSP indicators that measure the relevance subjects give to intrinsic and extrinsic orientations to work. The following were used for extrinsic rewards: “a job that enables me to earn high wages” and “a secure and stable job”; and for intrinsic rewards: “an interesting job” and “a job that gives me autonomy”. Besides ISSP, we added two further indicators: “a job that allows me to be financially autonomous from parents” and “a job that allows me to acquire new knowledge”. The former falls into the category of extrinsic orientations that reflects the importance of remuneration for labor, but places it at a considerably lower expectation level than earning high wages. In turn, the latter indicator reflects an intrinsic orientation that according to previous studies (Chaves, 2010) is crucial when considering whether an occupation has positive qualities inherent to the performed work, at least for individuals with a high level of education. A similar item, “a job where you can learn new things, learn new skills”, was used in the Monitoring the Future survey (Herzog, 1982; Marini et al., 1996). We asked participants to rate the importance of each of these items independently on an eleven-point scale (1 = totally disagree; 10 = totally agree), when assessing an occupation.

38(b) Predictors: we used the following variables as predictors of work values: (1) indicators of social origin: the occupational status of the family of origin and the levels of education of the father and the mother; (2) the level of employability of graduates in each training area, in Portugal; (3) the occupational status achieved by the respondent at the time of the survey and (4) the self-assessment of the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards actually obtained from the current employment.

39We measured parental education as the number of completed years of schooling corresponding to the highest level of education obtained by either parent. We measured the family of origin’s occupational group status by crossing the information on the father and mother’s occupational groups according to the National Classification of Occupations 2008, harmonized with the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO-08) in which groups 1 (managers), 2 (professionals) and 3 (technicians and associate professionals) were each defined as a rank with all other occupation groups lumped together as the lowest rank. We thus obtained four ranks (from A, the highest, to D, the lowest — see appendix B). In order to avoid missing cases, whenever information was missing for one of the parents (19 missing in both cases), we imputed that of the other parent.

40The employability level of the training area was defined as the inverse of the average unemployment rate for individuals under the age of 40 registered in the Portuguese Labor Force Survey between 2004 and 2010, according to the fourteen main education and training areas of the National Classification of Education and Training Areas (CNAEF) (Cardoso et al., 2012). Since CNAEF are defined at a higher level of abstraction than the subjects’ specific university degrees, following a cluster analysis, we rendered the rates as a ranking of four employability levels, namely: low (Arts, Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Life Sciences and Physics), medium (Teacher Training and Education, Information and Journalism, Business Sciences and Law), medium-high (Mathematics and Statistics, Technical Engineering and related subjects, Manufacturing Industries, Architecture and Construction, and Health) and high (Computer Sciences). This variable entered the regression models as a dummy, with the lower level as the reference category.

41The current occupational situation was built from a Multiple Correspondence Analysis (MCA) that identified distinct patterns of occupational situations through the analysis of the interdependence between the following variables: “occupational group”, “status in employment”, “type of employment contract”, “number of weekly working hours” and “average monthly net wage”. Subsequently, individual scores in the first two dimensions of the MCA were used as input for a cluster analysis and the classification of graduates by which a typology of occupational situations was formalized (Ramos, Parente, and Santos, 2014). The exploratory analysis using hierarchical methods suggested a solution with five groups, and the final definition of the typology was reached through the k-means optimization method. The graduates were thus classified into five types of occupational situation, corresponding to ranked positions in the labor market: (1) unemployed; (2) very precarious situation; (3) precarious situation; (4) steady position and (5) qualifying position.

42The self-assessment of the material rewards of the current employment was expressed by the level of agreement with the statements “my job allows me to be financially autonomous from my parents”, “my job is secure and stable” and “my job allows me to earn high wages”. Similarly, the self-assessment of the intrinsic rewards was expressed using the statements “my job is interesting”, “my job allows me to acquire new knowledge” and “my job gives me autonomy”. In all indicators we used a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = strongly disagree and 10 = totally agree). In order to avoid contamination, the questions on the self-assessment of both extrinsic and intrinsic job rewards were placed in a separate block in the survey, quite apart from the assessment of work values.

43We used age and gender as control variables, as well as whether or not the subjects worked while they were undergraduates. The categories of the variables “gender” (female = 0), “part time student” (no = 0) and “employability level of the training area” (low = 0) entered the regression models as dummy variables.

Statistical analysis

44We assessed the net effect of each predictor on each job value with multiple regression OLS models, using listwise deletion and bootstrap estimation. For intrinsic values, we used hierarchical models, in which the predictor in the second step is the self-assessment of the intrinsic reward of the current job corresponding to the dependent intrinsic value. This was done to create a match between job rewards and work values parallel to that implicit in the models for extrinsic values, in which matching material rewards were entered as predictors of values in accordance with the theory of motivation. The second step allowed us to test the only exploratory hypothesis we could draw from adjustment theory regarding intrinsic values, after testing the theory of motivation hypotheses on intrinsic values in the first step.

  • 1 Statistical analyses used IBM SPSS Statistics 20.0 with the significance level set at p < 0.05.

45Close to one third of the observations were excluded from the models because of missing data. We therefore performed a MCAR test on the pattern of missing values, which shows they are distributed at random: MCAR (c2(51) = 57,949, p = 0.234). Furthermore, we compared the profile of the global sample and the subsample after the listwise deletion procedure regarding some characterization variables (training area, gender, age, professional group of origin), finding very similar profiles (see appendix A). The analysis of the boxplots of the response distribution to the dependent variables in the total sample and sub-sample also confirmed very similar response patterns.1

Results and discussion

46The poor dispersion of the ratings in table 1 shows that this sample of graduates shares significant similarities in relation to work values. We found three major trends. Firstly, a maximalist framework of work values: all are very important for the majority of respondents, with average values higher than or equal to 7.8 and, with the exception of high wages, with more than half the individual ratings at or above 9. Secondly, the importance the vast majority of individuals attributes to “a job that allows me to be financially autonomous from parents”, as compared to the other extrinsic values. Finally, apart from this exception, the vast majority assigns higher scores to intrinsic than to extrinsic values.

47 The regression models in tables 2 and 3 test the structural variables’ ability to explain the variation of the importance given to extrinsic and intrinsic values. Secondarily, they assess in an exploratory way how much each of the two theoretical frameworks, the one based on Maslow’s theory of motivation and the one based on Bourdieu’s adjustment theory, fits the empirical relations.

48 In relation to extrinsic job values, all models behaved poorly, with adjusted R2 close to 6%. Thus the structural variables that we considered do not explain what little variation we found in the work values orientations among the graduates.

49Moreover, the effects of the subjects’ objective conditions on their preferences for extrinsic values do very little to support the hypotheses derived from the theory of motivation. The only significant effects that would support them are those of the fathers’ schooling and of high employability of the training area on the ratings of “a secure and stable job”, and of medium-high employability rate on “a job that allows me to be financially autonomous from parents”. In keeping with the theory, the three coefficients are negative albeit with quite moderate coefficients, which in turn was to be expected given the low variance of the subjects’ ratings of job values. The respondents’ current occupational situation seems to have no bearing on their adhesion to extrinsic work values. Motivation theory fares even worse with the effects of the subjects’ assessment of their job rewards, which are the absolute reverse of those the theory would predict.

Table 1 Descriptive measures of job values (ratings 1-10)

Table 1 Descriptive measures of job values (ratings 1-10)

50In turn, the adjustment theory comes out a little better, particularly at the level of assessment of job rewards. Indeed, these relations are compatible with an adjustment of the extrinsic work values that the respondents favor and the extrinsic rewards they believe they actually get.

51Table 3 displays the hierarchical regression models for intrinsic values. On the whole, these have a somewhat better fit than the models for extrinsic values, with adjusted R2 ranging from 7% to 13.6%. However, the improvement is due to the second step in the model, which added 5% to 10% fit over the R2 obtained in the first step, even lower than what we obtained with the same predictors and control variables in the models for extrinsic values.

52Almost all core predictors that have significant effects on the ratings of intrinsic values run contrary to the hypotheses based on the theory of motivation. Middle and middle-high employability are negative predictors of the ratings of “an interesting job”, as are middle and high employability of those of “a job that provides autonomy”. The one exception is the rather flimsy, yet significant positive effect of the current job allowing financial autonomy from the parents on the ratings of the extrinsic value of an interesting job. The results appear again to be more consistent with the adjustment, as all intrinsic rewards afforded by the current job are significant positive predictors of the ratings of the corresponding intrinsic work values, pointing towards “reinforcement” or “adjustment” factors.

Table 2 Predictors of extrinsic job values (multiple regression with bootstrap estimation, N = 735)

Table 2 Predictors of extrinsic job values (multiple regression with bootstrap estimation, N = 735)

Table 3 Predictors of intrinsic job values (hierarchical regression with bootstrap estimation, N = 735)

Table 3 Predictors of intrinsic job values (hierarchical regression with bootstrap estimation, N = 735)


53This research comes within the scope of the studies on how work orientations vary within society and which factors are involved in their formation. It has the particularity of focusing on a group of graduates from higher education who are in the same stage of transition to the labor market, as they all graduated from university around 5 years ago.

54Two questions were initially raised. Firstly, are there significant commonalities in the importance given by these graduates to the various work values? The answer is positive, as in fact we found common patterns of value orientation within this population of recent graduates.

55To begin with, we found a maximalist aspirational framework: most respondents adhere quite strongly to all the aspects of work values we addressed. This finding is consistent with the results obtained from other populations of Portuguese graduates (Chaves, 2010). Studies in other international contexts, although very different from the one we examined, have also revealed “aspirational maximalism” among young people. For example, both Johnson (2001b) and Marini et al. (1996) reported that high school students in the US tend to strongly value different work rewards, in excess of “what will be available to them in the labor market as adults” (Johnson, 2002: 1309).

56The second commonality is that of the importance given to a job that allows gaining financial autonomy from parents. This is on average higher than the importance attributed to any other work value, and has a very low dispersion. With regard to work, this is an extrinsic reward which, like the item “high wages” — the least valued in our sample — focuses on job remuneration. However, in this case the standard of remuneration is fixed at a level that is not necessarily considered “high”, but rather one that merely allows them not to depend on family members for expenses they regard as important or indispensable. This result also strengthens the hypothesis we already formulated on another matter (Chaves, 2010): namely, that despite the turbulence and complexification that has occurred in the transition process to adulthood, self-sufficiency and independence from the family of origin remains a nuclear vector in how individuals envision these dynamics, as well as in the very social reproduction process of contemporary societies.

57Finally, the last common aspect we have identified concerns the importance given to intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic rewards, with the exception of the one mentioned above (and which indeed, although extrinsic in its nature, has an element of self-realization that approximates intrinsic values). Indeed, the average value that individuals assign to “the interest of the work”, “the opportunity to acquire new knowledge”, and the “possibility of autonomy at work” outweighs those obtained by extrinsic rewards e.g. “the opportunity to earn high wages” and, perhaps more surprisingly, “job stability and security”. This finding is certainly not unprecedented. Several studies (e.g., Johnson and Mortimer, 2011) have drawn attention to the relevance, or even the prominence of intrinsic values with juvenile populations, particularly the more educated. The most surprising is that this relative ascendant is observed so distinctly among Portuguese graduates as well, being Portugal a country that, until recently, has low levels of education and that, even today, has average income levels well below to those observed in north-European countries or the US. Equally surprising is that this preponderance exists even among segments of graduates that five years after obtaining their diplomas, are in most vulnerable and precarious the situation in terms of job remuneration and security, including the unemployed. Indeed, these segments attribute a degree of importance to intrinsic values similar to that conferred by those who are in more prosperous and secure positions in the labor market.

58These results are evidence of a cross-cutting importance granted to intrinsic job rewards by Portuguese graduates, which should be analyzed in depth in the future. A series of theoretical work carried out over the past three decades can be a valuable support to produce hypothesis that help to understand this fact, especially the works of Giddens (1991) and Bauman (2001, 2008) that have emphasized the important inclusion or deepening of certain contents within the century-long individualization process (Baumeister, 1986; Martuccelli, 2002). Giddens and Bauman, namely, have pointed out two features of this cultural change that are especially relevant to this matter: on the one hand, the idea that individuals should be governed by the search for “self-realization” and, on the other, the belief that self-realization cannot distance itself from, or be formed outside of “authenticity” (Giddens, 1991). In the work sphere, the search for authenticity may be reflected precisely in the aspiration to engage in tasks that allow individuals to be true to their own interests, passions and skills, and thus the demand to be involved in activities carried out as part of the “vocation model”, as directly expressed in the items “an interesting job” and “a job that allows you to learn new things”. It is as if part of the core expectations that guide the context of intimate relationships in contemporary times, embodied in the “pure relationship” ideal (Giddens, 1992), would also extend to the subjective relationship that individuals strive to establish with the work domain.

59A second set of reflective elements that contribute to the analysis of ascending values of intrinsic work may be found in Baudrillard (1970), Bauman (2001, 2008), Campbell (1987), Featherstone (1991), and especially Lipovestsky (1992). We mean the suggestion that there has been a progressive diffusion of hedonistic ethics especially in contemporary Western countries, associated to maximizing pleasure and minimizing displeasure, whether intellectually or emotionally oriented. We argue these hedonistic ethics affect the perceptional, aspirational and evaluative relationships established nowadays by individuals in a multiplicity of institutional contexts. This is expressed explicitly in their working lives, in the praise of a job that can provide intrinsic rewards, and in the subjective rejection of working activities which, now or in the long term, will not allow them to fulfill this kind of goal.

60Obviously, any of the interpretations advanced herein are merely hypothetical and should be the subject of future research.

61The second question this paper addressed was that of identifying whether and which structural factors might account for the varying levels of importance attributed to extrinsic and intrinsic rewards within our population of graduates.

62The results point towards three conclusions. The first is that none of the equated structural factors: the social position of the family of origin, the level of employability of the training area and the individuals’ concrete occupational situations, has a relevant impact on the variation of extrinsic and intrinsic values. Since studies on these aspects at the international level (Johnson, 2002; Kohn and Schooler, 1983; Lindsay and Knox, 1984; Mortimer et al., 1996) and about the Portuguese population (Vala, 2000) concluded that social class has some explanatory impact on the variation of work values, we are led to consider the hypothesis that the reduced explanatory impact of social origins we found in our sample should be due, at least in part, to particularities of our population. Indeed, as compared with the general population, this is a more homogeneous universe from the point of view of their social and living conditions, both at the moment of inquiry and in terms of future expectations (job opportunities, etc.). Moreover, it is likely that their longer school socialization has exposed them to a more intense and cross-cutting diffusion of the importance of the intrinsic aspects of work that found in the general population, with homogenizing effects on the relevance given to this type of rewards.

63A second conclusion is that despite the impact of this set of variables being of little avail, the self-assessment of the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards afforded by the current job should be underlined, because this is the only set of variables that produces significant and systematic effects. These effects point to an adjustment of the individuals’ work value orientations to their appraisal of obtaining corresponding kinds of rewards, be they intrinsic or extrinsic, from their concrete employment situation

64Lastly, our exploratory conclusion regarding the two advanced theoretical frameworks, adjustment theory inspired by Bourdieu seems more effective in the interpretation of our results than the theory of motivation inspired by Maslow. As just mentioned, the more consistent results relating work values, both intrinsic and extrinsic, to the assessment of actual job rewards support the adjustment rationale, while few and less consistent results are in line with the motivation theory, all concerning extrinsic values.

65These assumptions does not amount to suggest that the potential impact of structural factors associated with material conditions of existence, on the one hand, and Maslowian motivation theory, on the other, should be abandoned. The conclusions we reached are naturally conditioned to population and period. Restricting the observation to university graduates obviously limits the variation on the independent variables, and as reported by previous above-mentioned research different results would likely be obtained in the general population. Moreover, data were obtained at a time when the situation of graduates in the labor market was much more favorable than it is at present. We do not know whether these trends hold, at a time when Portugal and other Southern Europe countries are immersed in a prolonged and severe financial and economic crisis that has triggered skyrocketing unemployment rates, contractual instability and wage cuts, predominantly among young populations and notably among the highly qualified.

Appendix A Profile of the samples

Appendix A Profile of the samples

Appendix B Family's occupational group status

Appendix B Family's occupational group status

 Appendix A Profile of the samples

 Appendix B Family's occupational group status

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1 Statistical analyses used IBM SPSS Statistics 20.0 with the significance level set at p < 0.05.

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Índice das ilustrações

Título Table 1 Descriptive measures of job values (ratings 1-10)
Ficheiro image/jpeg, 32k
Título Table 2 Predictors of extrinsic job values (multiple regression with bootstrap estimation, N = 735)
Ficheiro image/jpeg, 96k
Título Table 3 Predictors of intrinsic job values (hierarchical regression with bootstrap estimation, N = 735)
Ficheiro image/jpeg, 180k
Título Appendix A Profile of the samples
Ficheiro image/jpeg, 36k
Título Appendix B Family's occupational group status
Ficheiro image/jpeg, 7,8k
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Referência do documento impresso

Miguel Chaves   , Madalena Ramos e Rui Santos, «Convergences and disparities of work orientations among recent graduates in Portugal »Sociologia, Problemas e Práticas, 80 | 2016, 9-29.

Referência eletrónica

Miguel Chaves   , Madalena Ramos e Rui Santos, «Convergences and disparities of work orientations among recent graduates in Portugal »Sociologia, Problemas e Práticas [Online], 80 | 2016, posto online no dia 15 março 2016, consultado o 26 maio 2024. URL:

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Miguel Chaves   

Professor auxiliar, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (FCSH-UNL), Departamento de Sociologia, Avenida de Berna, 26 — C, 1069-061 Lisboa. E-mail:

Madalena Ramos

Professora auxiliar, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), Escola de Sociologia e Políticas Públicas, Departamento de Métodos de Pesquisa Social, Gabinete D312, Edifício 2, Piso 3, Av. das Forças Armadas, 1649-026 Lisboa. E-mail:

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Rui Santos

Professor associado, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas. Universidade Nova de Lisboa (FCSH-UNL), Departamento de Sociologia, Avenida de Berna, 26 — C, 1069-061 Lisboa. E-mail:

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