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Worldwide, Good Jobs Linked to Higher Well-Being

Worldwide, Good Jobs Linked to Higher Well-Being

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup's global surveys reveal that people with "good jobs," those who are employed full time for an employer, tend to have the highest well-being of those in the workforce. They are more likely to be "thriving" than those who are self-employed, employed part time looking for full-time work, or unemployed.


Gallup's global measurement of employment and of well-being provides a better understanding of the relationship between the two. Gallup gathers information about each respondent's employment status through a series of employment questions. Their evaluative well-being is measured by asking them to rate their lives on a 0-to-10 ladder scale based on the Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. Depending on how respondents rate their current and future lives, they are categorized as "thriving," "struggling," or "suffering."

Worldwide, individuals employed full time for an employer tend to report the highest evaluative well-being, with 29% thriving. Those employed part time and those who are unemployed do not fall far behind. Self-employed respondents report the lowest evaluative well-being, with 14% thriving.

In advanced economies, the relationship between employment and well-being changes somewhat. Individuals employed full time for an employer are still the most likely to be thriving, but those who are unemployed are least likely. The self-employed do better than the unemployed, but their well-being lags behind that of their peers working for an employer.


The data make clear that the self-employed are better off in the developed world than in the developing world, perhaps because they are likely to be self-employed by choice rather than necessity. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index in the U.S. has found that business owners have the highest well-being of all working Americans.


One of the most important factors contributing to an individual's well-being is his or her employment status. Globally, the difference in well-being between those who have good jobs and those who are self-employed is significant. In terms of one's well-being, the worst job in the world is to be self-employed in a developing country. At 12% thriving, the self-employed in the developing world have the lowest well-being of any group. Many of the world's poor are forced into growing or making things to sell on a street corner, working for themselves out of desperation. The picture is different in the developed world, where the self-employed are more likely to be entrepreneurs out of opportunity.

Traditional employment metrics do not always capture the complete jobs situation. Traditional unemployment does not include part-time workers who are looking for full-time work or individuals who are working for themselves in subsistence jobs. In the developing world, self-employed individuals may not only fail to make meaningful contributions to the formal economy, but also their jobs are not positively affecting their well-being. Gallup research reveals that full-time employment for an employer highly correlates with GDP per capita. Being employed full time for an employer is therefore a much better gauge of good jobs than unemployment, which has no statistical relationship to GDP per capita on a global basis.

As global leaders continue to make jobs their No. 1 priority, they need to use better metrics to assess whether they are actually creating good jobs. Good jobs not only have a significant impact on a country's gross domestic product, but they also are fundamental to a country's gross national well-being.

Explore the complete data in Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, per survey administration. Interviews were conducted in 129 countries throughout 2009 and 2010. In many countries, the data have been aggregated. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±1.4 in India to a high of ±4.7 in Latvia. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of survey data.

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