Abstracts from The Employment Dilemma and the Future of Work

11. A multi-layer system of work

11.1 Providing a first layer of work

In organising the first layer it should be taken into account that, although it would correspond more or less to what is today considered part-time work, the notion of part-time should be abandoned and instead the first layer be considered a basic unit of work. Since this layer of employment would only concern a very small part of the time available in everyday life, it would allow for a more flexible definition of individual personality, reflecting the full range of the individual’s productive activities. therefore, an individual’s professional and personal identity would not necessarily be based on first-layer work, but rather on his or her second-layer free entrepreneurial activities.
The basic unit of work, equivalent to a part-time job and remunerated at a minimum level to avoid absolute poverty, would concern people between the ages of 18 and 80 years. The three major population groups belonging to categories of generally excluded people from the Industrial Revolution, i.e. the young, the old and women, could through this project achieve social reinclusion in a most productive way. The young would have more opportunities for combining a practical job experience with education and at the same time be able to learn how to self-support themselves. This would also help to create a demand for higher education institutions like universities to be better integrated in society through personal and practical links between theory and practice. Women with small children, but also men in similar situations, wishing simply to organise their family life differently would also benefit from this system. Finally, older people, who around their 60s would start a period of gradual retirement but who could also continue to feel useful in society and above all remain ready, in their mature age, to use previous experience and a lifelong education to prepare themselves for new productive activities, both in the monetarised and non-monetarised system.
Especially this latter would help to provide security and better social integration for older people who at 60 still have a life expectancy of 20 years. In such circumstances, the possibility to obtain and the general provision of a part-time job (remunerated or partly remunerated, or supported in a non-remunerated activity) would constitute an essential complement to the traditional three pillars of the social security system (government pensions, occupational pensions and private savings of all sorts). It would also reduce the burden upon the younger generations of supporting a growing older population and thereby place all of them, young and old alike, in a much better position economically and culturally to develop appropriate activities.
We have already stressed that this first layer is not to be considered a part-time job in the traditional way but simply a basic unit of reference for direct and indirect public policies. Therefore, all financial resources currently earmarked for additional unemployment benefit, income support and welfare aid should converge to form the financial basis for such schemes. We can after all already detect in many places the growing pressure gradually to transform these financial transfers into some form of salary to stimulate people back to work. People should be helped to be active and not be paid to remain idle. They are all producers and not consumers in the first place.
The basic unit of full employment, corresponding to what today is defined as part-time employment, constitutes a very large part of the employment environment as a whole. In Europe, over the last 20 years, more part-time jobs have been created than the traditional full-time ones. Many of these part-time jobs are of course not necessarily of a type acceptable to those seeking employment. On the other hand, they are an almost ideal solution for a growing number of people. Where part-time jobs are underprotected in terms of normal social security standards, legislation and regulations will be needed to remedy the situation. This trend is already a verifiable reality and such a movement, which started a few years ago in many industrialised countries, should be continued. Part-time jobs at all ages but in particular for older people were once penalised in various ways. The fiscal system, the educational system, the very organisation of the three pillars of the social security still often make part-time jobs inefficient or difficult to make a success of. Many practical measures are now taken in some countries to improve the situation.
In many cases where part-time work is introduced, employers do not just substitute two new part-time jobs for one previous full-time work place, they sometimes set a dynamic development in motion, much in the sense of an economic acceleration process. It appears that through the enhanced productivity of part-timers more employment can be created in a more efficient environment. Two part-time jobs are not just equivalent to one full-time job, they are more productive and therefore more valuable, leading to an improved situation where the simple equation of one plus one adds up to a little bit more than two. The same could hold true of a basic layer of employment.
Faced with the problem of dismissing older workers on the one hand and of hiring young ones on the other, more and more companies in a variety of countries are adopting innovative schemes which involve developing activities to create the equivalent of part-time jobs. These initiatives are valuable and should be fostered. Governments, especially locally, but also nationally and internationally, can devise many incentives or create conditions to facilitate and encourage the development of the basic unit of the first-layer full-employment. As a further step, one could rationalise and develop appropriate initiatives where public authorities intervene directly to provide the equivalent of part-time jobs. One of the main concerns today is with social services, especially when compulsory military service is giving way to professional army, since they would lose many of their currently engaged work force. The necessity to provide a first layer of work meets in this case the demand for cheap and in most cases low skilled labour. Of course, an adequate rearrangement of the social services would be necessary.
Furthermore, the connections between the monetarised and the non-monetarised economies have to be better understood and developed: indeed, many initiatives, without fully acknowledging this fact, have already incorporated something of this approach. The effort to reduce hospital costs is one example. Implicit in the enormous drive to diminish the cost of hospitalisation is a call for self-production activities of the family or of the friends who are expected to take over what is completely monetarised within a hospital system. The same applies in the case of the care of children whose parents are at work. One either seeks a fully monetarised solution (investment in nurseries) or one mobilises private homes to use their facilities for that purpose (something that is already happening with millions of grand-parents) and leaving the public authorities to intervene at two levels: verification of the adequacy of personal infrastructures providing such ‘home’ services and the provision of some financial help, encouragement or fiscal advantage for those undertaking such tasks. The total cost of the latter solution would in that case be much lower than merely relying on a totally monetarised system. Discovering and utilising the interdependencies of monetarised and non-monetarised activities systematically opens up new and interesting possibilities.
We would urge that serious consideration be given to non-monetarised activities, i.e. those performed by people for themselves and which as such are not subject to a system of exchange. Incentives or an appropriate environment should be considered also as an economic means to a greater level of wealth when this is then achieved through self-education, self-repair or self-healing activities. In addition, many benevolent activities, which avoid paying others for work, can be encouraged even further through the normal development of society.
A key issue for policy design will be the quantification of the increase of wealth produced by self-production and the non-monetised activities. The recognition of this increase in a more adequate economic theory and its evaluation through proper indicators will be essential.

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