g<html><head /> <style type="text/css"> <!-- .style1 { font-size: x-small; font-weight: bold; } --> </style> <body> <META http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-16"><meta name="keywords" content="employment,work,asset,breadwinner,change,contract,culture,economic,employee,employer,history,jobs,law,meadows,money,pamela,productivity,role,self-employed,social,women,workforce,"><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; " align="center" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td style="background-color:silver; border-color:white; border-left-style:none; border-style:none; " width="730"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; ">The Changing Face of Work</span></td> </tr> <tr> </tr> </tbody></table><br><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:medium; " align="center" bgcolor="white" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td height="131" width="669"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small;"><strong>Editors Introduction</strong></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; "></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "> There have been clear and dramatic shifts in the workplace over the last century. The state has become an employer like any other. More of us are self-employed. The phenomenon of the male breadwinner society is dying out and employees can be more skilled than their employers are. In this article, Pamela Meadows, a visiting fellow at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in London, provides her observations on the changing face of work.</span><br> <br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>The European workplace</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">My first broad theme in discussing the future of work is the strength of economic and social forces, and the second idea I want to explore is how far legal frameworks act as a constraint in the employment market. Finally, I will look at the importance of history. In terms of the economic and social forces, I think one of the things all of us in the expert group found very striking was the extent to which common phenomena were emerging in different countries which had different legal frameworks, different political philosophies, different types of trade union movements and different industrial-relations traditions. Something quite interesting and quite powerful has to be going on for this to happen.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">One of those interesting issues was a shift in the status of the public sector and people who work in the public sector. In many countries, these people have not had traditional contracts of employment. They have been seen as office-holders or servants of the state. They have privileges and responsibilities but on the whole are not very well paid, although they do have good pensions. That has always been the nature of the underlying bargain. Virtually all European countries have now put civil servants on standard contracts of employment, so that there has been a marked shift in the status of public employees and they have become much more like other employees. The state is simply seen as one contracting party, an employer like any other.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The growth in self-employed people who have neither tangible business assets--a farm, a bar, a taxicab--nor employees is another feature of change. If we look across Europe, the old image of the self-employed person as somebody who has a tangible business is simply no longer true. Typically in most countries, about three-quarters of self-employed people do not have employees, and many of them do not have tangible assets, either. They are simply offering their labour--that is their asset.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Changing work cultures</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">That is one of the things which has led to the emergence of people who linger in the margin between being employed and being self-employed. There have been very clear shifts in the balance of the employment relationship. Employees frequently have greater knowledge and skill levels than their employers do, and that changes the nature of the power relationship. Employees are expected to use their own initiative and judgement in carrying out their job, and if we think about it, this is much more a reversion to the way that work was done before the Fordist production line turned jobs into tasks. Before the production line came along, people had a responsibility to deliver a particular set of outputs and had reasonable amounts of discretion over how they did that. We now seem to be moving back much more towards that position.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Employers have begun to abandon the social obligations which have traditionally underpinned the employment relationship. They have become much more willing to get rid of their workers who are over the age of 50, for example. They have become less willing to continue to employ people whose productivity performance might not be what it was five, 10, 15 years ago. In the past, they would have acknowledged the falling productivity but nonetheless have felt that there was an ongoing relationship with this particular individual. That attitude seems to be going, if it hasn't completely gone.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">But, going the other way, managers have become just another group of employees. In the past, the legal framework and the contractual framework which confronted managers was very often different from that which confronted other sorts of employees, but they now have the same sorts of contracts of employment as everybody else. So you can argue that on the one hand discretion and responsibility are being pushed down a long way in the workforce, but simultaneously you could argue that managers have become proletarianised--that their status has really become no different from that of everybody else.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">If we move on to the law as a constraint, the law will always find it difficult to prevent willing buyers and willing sellers from concluding agreements which suit their own needs, and particularly if there is widespread public tolerance of particular arrangements. Stamping out prostitution has proved to be enormously difficult, because it's rather like alcohol. Despite the restrictions on alcohol, there will always be willing buyers and willing sellers in some markets. Similarly, there will always be particular aspects of the employment relationship which suit employers and employees, even though the legal framework doesn't necessarily encourage or indeed permit them.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I think the issue of the French 35-hour week is an example in which both employers and employees probably want to have arrangements other than a rigid 35-hour week, and would prefer something which allows more flexibility and enables people to work more hours where necessary. Those alternative but technically illegal arrangements will exist, as long as there are advantages to both of the contracting parties and the potential damage to third parties is sufficiently minimal so that they really do not care about it in practice. Under these circumstances, the law is not going to constrain the sort of relationships that people enter into.</span><br> <span class="style1"><br> The history of employment</span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I think that one of the striking things about reflecting on some of these phenomena is that if we ignore history we can draw false conclusions. The employment relationship in Europe developed out of the annual contract for servants. They were hired on particular days of the year, often at hiring fairs. They were obliged to stay for a year, and the employer was obliged to pay them for the year. Such a relationship meant that seasonalities were smoothed out. It was acknowledged that at harvest time there was more work to do than there was in the depths of the winter. As employees wanted to live independently, they wanted to develop their own lives, so they wanted to work and have waged employment. Shorter employment relationships developed. Day labour developed in agriculture and people were more frequently engaged for shorter periods or by the task. What we are seeing now is exactly the same sort of process that European countries went through in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>The death of the male breadwinner</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">We hear a great deal about the increase in women's participation in the labour force and comparisons with the "traditional position." Yet, if we look at the past, it is clear that, apart from a very short period in recent history, women have always played an active role in economic activity aimed at the market, but they have not done so traditionally, via waged employment. Women have traditionally worked essentially on the basis of self-employment, doing particular tasks or short-term casual jobs. If we look at it in a longer-term context, we can argue that we have this little aberration in the middle of the twentieth century of a male breadwinner model.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The male breadwinner model was in a sense a very short-lived phenomenon. We are now reverting much more to a traditional pattern of employment relationships which looks more like the way that women have traditionally worked than the way that men became accustomed to work during the twentieth century.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">If you look at the arguments that went on from the late nineteenth century until the 1980s, the male breadwinner model was used to reinforce unequal pay for men and women, because it was felt that men needed more money than women did, even though they were doing the same job. So I'm not sure that we should treat its going as a loss. It certainly suited men and it suited the trade unions, which developed to support and reinforce that model. But it was one of the key forces that led to unequal pay and unequal job opportunities for women.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; font-style:italic; ">This article is taken from a lecture given at the Society for Socio-Economics annual conference, held at the LSE on July 15, 2000. Copyright the London School of Economics and Political Science.</span></td> </tr> </tbody></table> </body></html>