On the new nature of “employment”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In the last three decades there has been an essential transformation in the traditional characteristics of employment and work: 

a) Delocalization of production: globalization, guided by the laws of the markets, has prompted many industries to relocate in countries in which profits are comparatively much higher, particularly due to lower payroll costs. The country that has received the most “orders” is China, becoming the “world’s factory”… With the employment conditions typical of that great giant, in record time has become a rare example of capitalist-communism. But it’s obvious that neoliberal eyes don’t perceive such things, nor do they see how the goods are later distributed and sold from tax havens, with a flagrant lack of solidarity… 

b) Automatization: in the last few years ever-more perfect machines have been replacing workers at ever-increasing rates in agriculture, mining and large industrial processes… But machines required a certain degree of “supervision” by professionals, until the advent of 

c) Robotization: now it’s robots that carry out the majority of control and regulation functions. Bar codes or graphics have now replaced many machine workers. Together with the important changes in industrial processes mentioned above, equally significant changes have occurred with respect to the work force:

A) Preparation-information-global conscience: years ago the majority of citizens were confined to limited areas, both physically and intellectually. But thanks to the communications media and especially to recent technological advances, in a few decades “citizens of the world” have rapidly increased in numbers and, to a great extent, it is no longer the work that defines a worker, but rather workers who invent jobs. 

B) Longevity: in less than a century average life expectancy has increased by 30 years (from 50 to 80). Many people retire from work with many years still left, with an acceptable quality of life that will require continuous medical attention and treatment for chronic conditions. All of the above must be taken into account when assessing employment and work in our country: I believe it is wise to continue to convert Spain into the “California of Europe”, with its immense attraction for tourists and as a second residence, thanks to its geography, culture diversity, openness and hospitality, excellent level of healthcare (which mustn’t be affected!), gastronomy and scientific potential. It could be a country that provides services, construction without “bubbles”, and vast development in scientific research and innovation. And the last thing that this “California” needs is a “Las Vegas”. What are the politicians thinking when they speak of “growth” and “job creation”? I think they need to carefully consider the new nature of employment, workers and the country, and together create a great “plan for the future” that will re-kindle in our perplexed citizens their belief in life with dignity.