The New Rules of Work

Employment figures are high as unemployment falls and greater numbers of people find jobs. But the figures don’t tell the whole story as the nature of work is changing.

Future challenges

Governments and politicians are feeling pressure as the pain felt by workers is voiced at the ballot box.

Recent elections in the UK and the US have seen the majority of people call for a new approach to creating jobs as they struggle to succeed.

The answer from government is to look inwards and protect their home economy at the expense of staying open to trade with other countries.

Governments are caught in the reflected glory of high employment and reluctant to examine what lies beneath the headline figures.

When they do an unpleasant and unsettling picture of part-time, short-term, zero-hours contracts that stretch the definition of a traditional job awaits.

Work no longer comes in a predictable pattern and the idea of a job as a full-time, well-paid offering that forms the basis of a striving life is outdated.

New models that include contract work for an employer who may or may not offer hours have substituted traditional notions of work.

As a result, the gap between the haves and have-nots is growing and keeps accelerating at an alarming rate.

Traditional work arrangements were effective in the past as the economy produced jobs that allowed people to live productive lives.

Times have changed, however, as work increasingly rewards an overpaid top layer of employees while penalising an underpaid bottom layer of workers.

Changing times

An additional challenge lies in the fact that the top tier of employees continues to shrink as the bottom level grows to include an increasing number of workers.

The difficulty in finding work or finding work that isn’t exploitative is causing anger amongst many job seekers.

Even commentators are questioning the kind of society we are creating when work offers people a life of poverty rather than prosperity.

Things can always change but it will require a wide-ranging discussion about the unfolding nature of work.

People are also choosing, often through necessity, to become self-employed, which is a theme often backed by government.

Entrepreneurship and self-employment are essential elements in building a healthy economy but people in these categories can often struggle to thrive too.

Low levels of unemployment should make people happy but based on the outcome of recent elections that is not always the case.

One course of action lies with government, as it must examine employment figures more closely and change the analysis that shows such a misleading and rosy picture.

Government can, of course, ignore the situation and simply cling to the status quo but levels of anger will rise beyond reason.

So, traditional work patterns are coming to an end, as new ones emerge to write a whole new set of rules from which we must all learn.