This study sought for national characteristics that moderate the individual-level relationship between job characteristics and job satisfaction. Data from two distinct questionnaire surveys administered to 107,292 employees in 49 countries was analyzed by employing multilevel modeling. Results showed that the link between intrinsic job characteristics and job satisfaction is stronger in richer countries, countries with better governmental social welfare programs, more individualistic countries, and smaller power distance countries. By contrast, extrinsic job characteristics are strongly and positively related to job satisfaction in all countries. In addition, we found that intrinsic job characteristics tend to produce motivating satisfaction in countries with good governmental social welfare programs irrespective of the degree of power distance, while they do not tend to work so in countries with poor governmental social welfare programs as well as a large power distance culture. Socio-economic and cultural approaches to explaining cross-national variation in work motivation are discussed. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.