Work engagement may decrease the risk of unemployment and incapacity for work – and increase salary levels

Study: When an employee experiences work engagement, the benefits are apparent in the individual’s life as well as in society in general. Work engagement was discovered to have a positive effect in the labour market. The study conducted by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Etla suggests that it is important to pay attention to well-being at work in a proactive manner.

Work engagement experienced by employees has a positive effect in the labour market.

Work engagement is associated with reduced likelihood of premature disability pension and risk of unemployment. In addition, it has a positive effect on the improvement of the professional status and level of salary of people in Finland.

“There have been studies about work engagement for 20 years, but the latest results are among the strongest indications of its positive effect on individuals, workplaces and even society. Work engagement has a wide variety of far-reaching effects on work ability and working careers,” says Research Professor Jari Hakanen from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

The results are from a recently published study by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Etla in which the Quality of Work Life Survey by Statistics Finland was used: the answers of nearly 5,000 people of working age in Finland about work engagements were combined with the registered data on them.

Work engagement is/refers to a positive, fulfilling, work-related state of mind. Engaged workers have high levels of energy and are dedicated and involved, fully focused on, and happily engrossed in their work. Work engagement involves three dimensions of well-being: vigour, dedication and absorption.

In this study, work engagement was viewed as happiness experienced at work, which, in addition to health and productivity, is one of the three indicators of a sustainable working career.

With regard to sustainable working careers and productivity, it is important that the engagement experienced by an employee is associated with a reduced likelihood of unemployment. Consequently, it also supports the individual’s ability to cope in the face of adversity in their career.

“Various factors completely outside the individual’s control can cause unemployment and, in some industries, there are no changes in salary or professional status even if you work with determination and dedication,” says Hakanen.

New information about the link between salary level and well-being at work

The perspective of the study can be considered groundbreaking in many ways.

“We have a huge amount of information about the negative effects of work-related stress, for instance, but there is much less scientific data on how a positive experience of well-being at work is associated with the lack of serious problems, such as disability and unemployment” says Hakanen.

Conventionally, studies have focused on whether increased salary levels are associated with increased job satisfaction. Now, this theme was approached from another direction by studying whether well-being at work affects the level of salary.

“There seems to be a causal relationship in the background: work engagement yields positive results in the labour market. This observation is valid even when considering a wide range of different personal qualities,” says Researcher Ilkka Ylhäinen from Etla.

Even during the two-year period, it was already observed that work engagement has significant positive effects in the labour market.

“The research results are a strong message to work life in Finland and elsewhere that workplaces should invest in well-being at work in a proactive manner. It is important that action is not taken only when things are going bad. Over the years, we have accumulated a lot of information on how work engagement can be supported through work arrangements,” says Hakanen.

For more information, please contact

Research Professor Jari Hakanen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 (0)40 562 5433, jari.hakanen[at]

Article available online

Hakanen JJ, Rouvinen P, Ylhäinen I. The Impact of Work Engagement on Future Occupational Rankings, Wages, Unemployment, and Disability Pensions—A Register-Based Study of a Representative Sample of Finnish EmployeesSustainability. 2021; 13(4):1626.

Work engagement study

  • The material used in the study was the Quality of Work Life Survey by Statistics Finland from 2013 and the registered data concerning the employment of the people who took the survey from 2013–2015.
  • The study was carried out as part of SWiPE – Smart Work in Platform Economy study project funded by the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland.
  • In the study, work engagement was approached as part of the concept of sustainable working careers. The indicators included work engagement (happiness), disability pension decisions (health) and the development of individual salary levels and professional status (productivity). Unemployment is a negative indicator, so-called career shock, for sustainable working careers (productivity).
  • In the study, the effects of the following qualities on the phenomena studied were standardized, for instance: age, gender, education, marital status, number of children, weekly working hours, industry, profession, region, chronic illnesses, sickness absences and previous periods of unemployment (with regard to analyses concerning unemployment).

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