On employment, livelihood and the future of work
from The Jobs Letter No.11 / 21 February 1995
- CHARLES HANDY SEES THE FUTURE,
by Carla Rapoport,
Fortune, 13 February 1995, also in Time.
An overview of the recent work and ideas of Charles Handy, the management
philosopher and futurist who believes that we can survive and prosper in the tough new downsized
work environment, if we understand the forces that are shaping it.
Handy is well known to employment activists for his early 1980's book
The Future of Work. More recently he has published two bestsellers :
The Age of Unreason, in which he forecast
the collapse of the 45-yr old job and paternalistic corporations, along with the unfolding of the
new service-based economy; and The Age of
Paradox (published earlier this year) in which he
recognises the dark side of these developments with companies ruthlessly pursuing efficiency at
the expense of workers, the community, and even their own futures.
" Handy has an unconventional view of the future that stands everything we think we
know on its head. When we were all employed, he says, "we basically sold our time for money. So
long as we were doing what we wanted to do, the point of our lives was to get as much money for it
as possible. Money as the measure of our success." In that world, education was primarily for a
fixed time, and then it ended.
" Upside-down thinking says that all these certainties will soon be dead. Governments
are going broke and can't afford benefits. Education will have to become never-ending. Because
they can take nothing forgranted - including their jobs - workers will need to learn how to value
time as well as money..."
" Very soon, half the work force of the developed world will be `outside' traditional
organisations. The future prosperity of all of us will depend on their competencies and their
education, yet no-one seems to be noticing or caring. If workers don't continually develop or update
their skills, not only will they be no use to the organisation but, worse, they will be a growing
burden to the rest of us. Few will bother to educate themselves if the government and corporations
don't do it. The result : Half the population could be out of work...
" - Fortune
- SLICE! CUT! OUCH!
The Job Crisis and the Dangers and Benefits of
Downsizing, by Michael Hirsh Newsweek, 7 February 1995, also in
America's report card on "downsizing", "re-engineering", and mass layoffs of
workers during the 80's and 90's is starting to show mixed results.
Michael Hirsh warns that the lean-and-mean company management fashion that
exists from New York to Tokyo may be getting hollow. Americans are learning that repeated
layoffs are inducing `corporate anorexia' - starving oneself of staff, skills and morale.
" American managers are reassessing their own formulas. Somewhat to their
surprise, they are finding that slash-and-burn layoffs often don't work. The surviving workforce
can become demoralised, angry and subversive, the last thing a service company wants. The
lesson being learnt is that the neutron-bomb approach to re-engineering, macho management, is
a form of management malpractice.
" Indeed, bottom line results are mixed so far. According to a study of
manufacturing companies by the National Bureau of Economic Research, about half of the increases in
US productivity in the 1980's came from plants that actually §increased§ employment. And
profits haven't yet improved for most downsized companies. To most managers re-engineering
still means just cutting jobs rather than revamping work procedures and products."
" Nynex, New York's local telephone company, has approved a generous contract
renegotiation that US Secretary of Labour Robert Reich called a breakthrough in US labour
relations, a sign that companies can be lean without being mean.
" While workers must work harder and perform more tasks, the pact virtually
bars layoffs through to 1998 and offers huge pensions to early retirees and free tuition for
college classes - even during working hours. Managers get a similar deal. Nynex has budgeted
$3.1 billion in restructuring charges through next year to unload surplus staff more gently.
That works out at $180,000 per employee, six times what some rivals have spent... "
- TECHNOLOGY, THE FUTURE OF YOUR JOB AND OTHER MISPLACED
by the editors of the Economist, The
Economist, 11 February 1995
The current fear of continuing job losses due to new technologies is leading to
political panicking that may well be misplaced, says the Economist. The article is critical of
pessimistic forecasts such as those in the recently released book
The End of Work by Jeremy Rifkin (pub G.P.Putman's Sons) which predicts that within the next century the world's richest
economies will have virtually no need of workers.
" Both theory and evidence suggest that in the long run new technology should
create more jobs than it destroys. But the long run can take a long time. In the next decade or
so, things depend on how quickly demand expands to match increases in productive
capacity. Unfortunately there may be prolonged lags between job losses and the creation of new
jobs. And the new jobs may anyway be inappropriate for the displaced workers. Not every
redundant steel worker in Scotland will be able to work as an aerobics teacher in London. "
" How can this problem of a jobs mismatch be eliminated ? The familiar answer is
that compensating demand effects are likely to come through more quickly when general
economic growth is strong, and when the markets for both labour and products are flexible.
Governments can therefore help by making workers more adaptable through improvements in
education and training, and by removing obstacles to free markets in labour and in goods and
services ..." - the Economist.
Top of Page
This Letter's Main Page
The Jobs Letter Home Page |
The Website Home Page
The Jobs Research Trust -- a not-for-profit Charitable Trust
constituted in 1994
We publish The Jobs Letter