Sustainability more important for young people than high wages

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ECONtribute study examines what is important to graduates when starting a career

Young people would accept a lower salary for a job in a sustainable or socially oriented company. This is what a team led by Thomas Dohmen, professor at the Cluster of Excellence ECONtribute at the University of Bonn, has discovered.

"We have empirically proven with our study that a company’s mission is important," says Thomas Dohmen. Companies could more easily recruit young professionals if they pursue sustainable or social goals. The study indicates that people with altruistic and prosocial personalities are particularly attracted to companies that demonstrate a commitment to society or climate protection.

Around 1500 master’s students from the Netherlands were asked to evaluate fictitious job offers as part of the study. The researchers varied a range of characteristics in the job descriptions, such as the salary and the chance of a permanent contract, the importance of sustainability in the company, and whether the work is done independently or as part of a team. Participants were asked to indicate in a personal ranking which job they would most likely choose. In addition, the researchers asked about economic preferences and personality traits.

Correlation of job preferences and personality

The result: On average, young professionals are willing to give up 170 to 220 euros per month if they can work for a company with innovative, sustainable or social objectives. According to the study, these companies are particularly attractive to altruistic people who are less competitive.

Other job characteristics are also related to personal traits. Teamwork for instance is important to people who can place a high level of trust in others. Women value autonomy on the job. Competitive and egoistic individuals care about a high salary. Risk-averse people, on the other hand, are attracted to secure working conditions such as a permanent contract.

It is therefore worthwhile for companies to take these interrelationships into account in their job postings. Thomas Dohmen: "From a business perspective, this is an important insight: If I offer certain working conditions, certain individuals are more likely to want to work for me. If a sustainably oriented company wants to attract competitive applicants, it has to offer a higher salary than sustainably oriented companies to which competition orientation is less important. If a company wants more diversity in its teams, it might want to become involved in sustainability and social issues.