The Changing Nature of Jobs

The traditional full-time permanent job has changed over recent years and is now harder to find. New types of jobs offer flexibility but pay less and generate greater levels of insecurity.

Freedom and flexibility

Such changes are seen in some quarters as a positive trend that allows employers and employees freedom and flexibility in their working arrangements. They are also seen as more beneficial to the economy as employers are better able to manage the ups and downs of the market and employees enjoy a better work-life balance.

There is of course an alternative view that sees such change as the introduction of poor quality jobs to enable employers to make greater profits. In reality it is difficult to argue as there is growing evidence of a trend away from traditional secure jobs towards greater insecurity for millions of people.

Traditional employment is usually described as full-time and long-term in nature; new types of jobs are described as part-time, short-term or zero-hours contracts with little guarantee of permanent work. Traditional jobs formed the basis of the social contract that knotted employer, employee and government together in an arrangement that benefitted society.

Without the provision of a social contract it is feared greater wealth will go to employers as employees and government coffers are squeezed. The dominating trend however is towards new types of work as technology disrupts the workforce in all areas of activity.

A new contract

Low paid insecure jobs are not a new characteristic of the workplace but their growth in so many industries coupled with the speed of spread is a cause of concern. Not least because a new understanding between employer and employee is difficult to establish as the workforce splinters and those looking for jobs wrestle with a maze of poor options.

In an effort to positively spin the appearance of so many new jobs it is suggested those seeking flexibility are pleased, even though the fact that permanent positions can also offer flexibility is rarely highlighted. It is also suggested that flexible working enables a better work-life balance, even though such balance can also be found in permanent jobs.

Such weak arguments are difficult to support when it is evident that many new jobs are of lesser quality and less enjoyable because they pay poorly and offer fewer benefits. They also often offer little or no training and scant opportunity for career development, which poses the question of what to do in such a new reality.

In essence, new types of jobs are creating a two-tier workforce as those without specific skills suffer and those with specific skills soar. The rally call for worried workers is of course to upskill and reskill in a way that enhances their prospects in the marketplace and their value to employers.

So, the nature of work is changing and there is an urgent need to develop a new social contract between employer and employee.