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    Essential Information on an Essential Issue

    Letter No.137

    10 January, 2001

    It's been five years since the publication of JEREMY RIFKIN's controversial book The End of Work, and Penguin Books have just released a new paperback edition.

    rifkin4In the new Penguin paperback edition of Jeremy Rifkin's book The End of Work, the author restates his call for us to "re-envision" work and harness the talents of the millions of people no longer needed to work in the market and government sectors. In a Postscript added to his 1995 work, Rifkin argues that there is an opportunity to create millions of new jobs in the Third Sector — the civil society — and create greater "social capital" in our neighbourhoods and communities. He acknowledges that it will cost money, and his plan is that nation-states should tax a percentage of the wealth generated by the new Information Age economy and redirect it towards the creation of jobs and the rebuilding of the "social commons".

    While politicians traditionally divide their affairs into a polar spectrum running from the marketplace on one end, to the government on the other, Rifkin believes it is more accurate to think of society as a three-legged stool made up of the market sector, the government sector, and the civil sector. The first leg creates market capital, the second leg creates public capital, and the third leg creates social capital. Of the three legs, the oldest, but least acknowledged, is the Third Sector.

    Rifkin: "In the old scheme of things, finding the proper balance between the marketplace and government dominated political discussion. In the new scheme, finding a balance between the marketplace, government, and civil sector forces becomes paramount. Thinking of society as creating three types of capital — market capital, public capital, and social capital — opens up new possibilities for reconceptualising both the social contract and the meaning of work in the coming era.

    "We need to recall that nation-states are a creature of the industrial era. Capitalism required political institutions large enough to oversee and secure broad geographical markets. Now that commerce is moving from the Industrial Age to the Information Age and from the land to the electromagnetic spectrum, geographically bound nation-states suddenly find themselves increasingly irrelevant and without a clearly defined mission.

    "In the new world that's emerging, government is likely to play a much reduced role in the affairs of commerce and a far greater role in the civil society. Together, these two geographically bound sectors can begin to exert tremendous political pressure on corporations, forcing some of the gains of the new commerce into the communities."

    The End of Work—The Decline of the Global Work Force and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era, by Jeremy Rifkin, (2000 paperback edition by Penguin Books)

    For more on Jeremy Rifkin's ideas, see our Rifkin Reader at

    Building "social capital" is the purpose behind a new project in Taranaki aimed at giving young unemployed people work and training in the not-for-profit sector. The Taranaki Local Employment Co-ordination Committee (LEC), in co-operation with Winz and local Mayor Claire Stewart, has set up "Youthworks" — a programme reminiscent of the Voluntary Organisations Training Scheme (VOTP) of the early 1980s.

    Taranaki Youthworks will match young unemployed people to local community groups. They will be asked to work for at least 30 hours a week for six months, and will be paid with the help of Winz wage subsidies. The newly-established Taranaki Employment Support Foundation will assist the community groups become employers, as well as providing a grant of $1000 to top-up wages and help with the community group's costs. The Foundation will also provide an opportunity for the Youthworks participants to gain accredited training from the Social Services Industry Training Organisation (ITO), which is also supporting the project along with Skill New Zealand and Careers Service Rapuara.

  • Taranaki LEC co-ordinator Elaine Gill says the project will initially run on a trial basis until it can attract more sponsorship support. Gill: "In Taranaki we have a high rate of unemployment, and nearly a quarter of those without work are under the age of 25. These disadvantaged young people are the ones that stay in Taranaki not the ones who go off to university and careers elsewhere. They are, as such, Taranaki's future ... but what sort of future are we giving them if their entry into the adult world is characterised by idleness and lack of money?"

    "Many of our community groups are under stress, and volunteers are getting fewer and those that are available tend to be getting more elderly. Yet the demands on community groups are increasing. So on the one hand we have groups under stress and on the other hand young people without work. This project aims to draw these threads together by giving young people the chance to enter the adult world by doing their bit to assist the community in which they live..."

    Sources — Taranaki LEC Bulletins November and December 2000 (Elaine Gill); and "Youthworks— a proposal to assist the Taranaki community and provide work for young people' by Elaine Gill (2000)

    Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey last month launched a Canterbury Youth Employment strategy which will see Winz targeting 16-24 year-olds to ensure that they make a successful transition from school to employment or training. The strategy will particularly focus on gaining more effective case management for the 18 and 19 year olds that are on the department's books. The strategy has followed an approach to the government by the Canterbury Development Corporation (CDC) which already runs a successful "Actionworks" Youth Employment Service.

    Under the new measures, Winz will provide Case Managers within each of their Service Centre who have a dedicated caseload of young people. This is in contrast to the usual Winz policy that caseworkers deal with all types of beneficiaries. In making these changes, Winz will be drawing on the existing expertise of the Actionworks Service. They will also provide a dedicated Work Broker who will holds the "Youth portfolio" and ensure a more seamless interface in matching jobs with young people. Winz and the CDC will also jointly operate a Youth Initiative Fund (to the value of $100,000).

  • In launching the strategy, Steve Maharey saluted the vision of the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs and their goal that, by 2005, no young person under 25 years will be out of work or training. Maharey: "Youth unemployment is an issue for all our communities. It is now an issue that is being owned by the community of Christchurch in partnership with the Department of Work and Income. By providing more effective case management we aim to ensure that those who need to have recourse to social assistance or income support can make the transition to work and independence.

    "The vision is of a community in which no young person is on a benefit, doing nothing. It is a vision of a community in which all young people are actively engaged either in employment, in education, and in training. It is a vision shared by the Government and both the partner organisations..."

    Source — Christchurch Press 6 December 2000 "Youth work plan lauded"; Press Release 1 December 2000 Steve Maharey "Maharey launches Canterbury youth employment strategy"

    Also in Christchurch, Mayor Garry Moore and Dick Hubbard, the founder of Businesses for Social Responsibility (BSR), have launched the new programme designed to link school leavers directly into office employment with the city's leading legal and accounting firms. Ten year-12 and year-13 students have been awarded scholarships which place them with participating firms in the city for one year's paid employment involving training in office support and administration.

    The Employment Scholarship Programme (ESP) has been developed and piloted by local lawyer Simon Mortlock. The "office support" position has been re-invented with on-site industry specific training modules. The Scholarship Recipients receive free tuition from the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology. Participating legal and accounting firms undertake to provide coaching, interview skills and introductions to other prospective employers towards the end of the Scholarship term.

  • Jo Wolfreys, the ESP coordinator, has been liaising with firms, schools and students to promote the concept and to select the first scholarship recipients who will begin the programme this year. She says that although the official unemployment rate for the September quarter has dropped to 5.9% ... it is still very high for young people at one in six, or 15.7% of unemployed teenagers. Wolfreys: "We have targeted school leavers so we can facilitate a positive first year out of school — a year we coin the "golden year", not unlike the golden hour in trauma medicine, where timely intervention can really make a difference."

    Source — Press Release 28 November 2000 Simon Mortlock Lawyers /Businesses for Social Responsibility "Win-Win employment programme launches in Christchurch" by Jan Crooks

    Shorter Working Week. One year after the introduction of the 35-hour working week in France, the unemployment rate in the county is dropping, economic growth is steady, and the workforce seems happy. Patrick Bishop of the UK Daily Telegraph reports that working mothers, sports amateurs, travel agents and a host of others are benefiting from the Socialist-led government legislation. The five million workers so far affected have an average of 15 more days off a year — more time for family life, hobbies, sport and travel. The traffic in Paris thins out dramatically in Wednesdays, a time when many working mothers spend a day off with their children.

    The new working rules in France lay down a limit of 35 hour's work a week, initially in enterprises with more than 20 workers. In order to comply, employers have had to grant extra holidays. The measures will extend to small firms (with fewer than 20 workers) next year.

    The French government has had to offer companies tax concessions to encourage them to reach agreements with trade unions and workers to cut hours and hire more staff. (The government had planned to finance these measures with a broadening of corporate eco-tax on carbon emissions, and other measures, but there has been a draw-back with the French constitutional court ruling that these financial measures are unfair).

    The reduction of the working week however has proved popular with the workers — a recent survey has found that 80% of French workers thought the 35-hour week "positive or very positive for them personally". Employers seem to have accepted the new law, despite the arguments from those who felt that the new working regime would make the labour market even less competitive in the global economy. The French Employment Minister Elisabeth Guigou says that the measures have helped make last year the best job-creation year in France for a century.

  • For an overview of how the 35-hr working week legislation works in France, visit

    Source — The Dominion 2 January 2000 "35-hour week works for France" by Patrick Bishop of Daily Telegraph

    Meanwhile, the British government has conceded that their introduction of a 48-hour week has had no impact on the long-hours culture of the British workforce two years after its introduction. The EU Working Time Directive was introduced in Britain in October 1998 with the aim of revolutionising working conditions by allowing employees an option of not working more than 48 hours in any given week without their written consent.

    A recent survey of 7,500 employees and 2,500 employers has found that one in nine full-time employees works more than 60 hours every week — mostly men with children. And one in eight regularly works both Saturdays and Sundays. Almost 50% of all workers put in an average of nine hours overtime per week with four out of ten receiving no extra pay or time off in lieu for the additional attendance. The survey found that the most common reasons for working long hours were a temporary increase in the workload or a backlog of work.

    British Employment Minister Margaret Hodge says there was some surprise in government circles about the findings. Hodge: "The 48-hour week directive has had less impact than we expected. We need to ask why it hasn't led to a greater change in presenteeism and number of hours worked. Presenteeism remains a strong British character and it is obvious we are all working too long hours, which is making us ill, less productive and is not supporting family life..."

  • The survey found 14% of men who lived as a couple with dependent children worked more than 60 hours a week. This compared with 7% of women in the same family circumstances, 9% of single parents and 9% of people who were single or members of childless couples. The survey suggests that the long hours of many males in couple households with children may reflect both a need for income (associated with children) and the opportunity to work long hours (associated with the presence of a partner).

    Margaret Hodge feels that society is dealing "with the consequences and not the cause" of people not getting the right balance between work and the rest of their lives. Hodge, who admits to herself working "incredibly" long hours, says that men have been excluded from previous campaigns for a better work-life balance. Hodge: "Now fathers too are calling for a better deal. With 14% of fathers working over 60 hours every week, it means that men are less and less able to spend the time with the family that they want..."

    Sources — Financial Times 21 November 2000 "Minister highlights long hours culture Employment EU Legislation `has had less impact than expected'" By Rosemary Bennett; The Guardian 21 November 2000 "Working lives: Excessive overtime causing havoc to families" by John Carvel; "Work-life Balance 2000" survey, by Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick and IFF Research: 40-page summary report from DfEE publications

    " We know that work is changing radically and rapidly and not just because statistics tell us so. They do indicate that more and more people are experiencing a working life outside what we have seen as the traditional employment of full-time long service with a single employer.
    " The traditional career path of a steady incremental progress up an organizational hierarchy has been threatened by the wave of "downsizings" and "delayerings" and the widespread disintegration of many places of employment in recent years. At the same time ever more flexibility is being asked of people in work, in terms of how many work, when they work, what they do and how they get paid.
    " Against that background people like Charles Handy began to popularise terms like "portfolio" career to capture the emerging types of working lives for many people. Handy suggested that portfolio work is about plying a variety of your skills with a variety clients in a variety of settings, sometimes paid and sometimes not. It might be a package containing some or all elements of more traditional waged work, work for a fee, gift work (doing it for free), study work or home work (the kids, the cleaning). It is more difficult to say what it is than what it is not. It is not full-time or relatively secure work within a single organisational setting.
    " Some say that terms like portfolio working are a cover for unemployment. I don't want to deny those commentaries that draw our attention to the devastation that has been caused to people by changes in work practice. But I do want to challenge the binary either/or thinking evident in some private thoughts and public policy which suggests that you are either in full-time work or you're unemployed totally. I also want to challenge assumptions that these changes in world of work are temporary and that they are necessarily to be mourned. Portfolio working presents a challenge to just that sort of thinking.
    " Undoubtedly many people who have moved into portfolio working have done so because they saw no other alternative at the time. In my research, there have been many stories of loss, betrayals, shattered hopes, broken promises. But let's also recognize that despite such a beginning many such people come to revel in portfolio work for its scope for personal development, its sense of being in charge of your own destiny, its variety, its freedom from all the "stuff" at work... Many people are choosing portfolio work as a lifestyle choice — they don't want to be forever mired in a single career setting. They want a lifestyle which offers scope to use their myriad skills and which can be balanced, invigorating and as restful or exciting as they want it to be."
    Dr Mary Mallon, University of Otago, speaking at the launch of the NEWORK Centre, Wellington, 21 November 2000

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