I was reading the book written by R. William Holland, ‘Are There Any Good Jobs Left? Career Management in the Age of the Age of Disposable Worker’ and it struck me on the accuracy and poignancy of his observations.
As we pore through the news, we will notice that job creation is one of the foremost priorities for many governments around the world. With high sustained unemployment rates, people will eventually lose faith in the government and thus lead to political and social upheaval – as seen in Europe.
This got me thinking: What is in a job? Why are jobs so important?
According to BusinessDictionary.com, a job is defined as employees performing and accomplishing quantifiable duties, responsibilities and tasks in exchange for a salary. It added that beyond this perspective, jobs are especially important for us as we identify ourselves through our occupations, and our unique contributions to the organisation and society (BusinessDictionary.com, N.D.).
Below are some of the memorable quotes from the Holland’s Book.
One feature of a good job relates to the continuity of work and its associated income. It allows us to do things such as take on long-term debt. How much debt as well as the length of the debt obligations is often a function of monthly cash flow. Interruptions to a person’s income can easily interrupt access to the Dream (Holland, 2006, p.43).
We believe education is a ticket for admission to a good job – one with security of employment, health care benefits, career development, and a pension programme for retirement (Holland, 2006, p.4). Access to good jobs is a key motivator behind educating ourselves and our children. We structure our debts and dreams through our jobs (Holland, 2006, p.45).
The price of the admission ticket to good jobs has steadily risen while what we are getting for a return is less certain than before (Holland, 2006, p.4) How we prepare ourselves as a society and as individuals to deal with these changes, will have a dramatic impact on the quality of our lives.
The availability of job will ebb and flow depending on forces in the market place, including technology and concerns about efficiency (Holland, 2006, p.12). When companies are free to move jobs to their most rational economic locations, those who held those jobs become part of the labour pool in need of redeployment (Holland, 2006, p.12).
For the economist, workforce redeployment is looked upon as an engine for economic development as workers migrate to other jobs and companies reinvest to get better returns on capital (Holland, 2006, p.12). For individual workers, redeployment can be a source of economic demise because their jobs move elsewhere or disappear altogether (Holland, 2006, p.12).
There is no benign mechanism that redeploys workers on an as-needed basis. Indeed, people are left to fend for themselves, and there is no assurance they will share in any of the economic benefits workforce redeployment generates for society as a whole (Holland, 2006, p.12). In this sense, workers become disposable (Holland, 2006, p.12).
There was a time when our careers or occupational choices were prescribed by what our fathers did. Sons of farmers became farmers and their daughters became farmers’ wives. Later, greater access to education gave men, and then women, access to jobs unavailable to their fathers a generation later. Still later it became common for people to have several jobs during the course of a career and more than one career in the course of a lifetime. But it is a freedom bringing an unprecedented set of anxieties and insecurities. In this context, personal freedom and security can be at odds with one another (Holland, 2006, p.12).
While it has never been quite this cut-and-dried, it does seem fair to say that whatever post- World War II job security existed has given way to a more complicated reality (Holland, 2006, p.12). The expectation today is that we will be free (forced) to change both jobs and careers (Holland, 2006, p.12). Consequently, we are facing levels of complexity unknown just a few generations ago (Holland, 2006, p.12). At the same time, what we do for a living (and whom we do it for) continues to play an important role in our self esteem. Our occupational choices feed our egos and affect how others view us (Holland, 2006, p.12).
But if having a job of which we are proud is important, losing that job can be devastating. Being let go/ fired is often viewed as a threat to our sense of personal worth and value, as it tends to invalidate everything we know and believe about ourselves. “I was laid off,” the reasoning goes, “so what I thought about myself is not true. My personal effectiveness with people – the value I bring to my organization and my peers and the esteem with which I am held in the community – must be less than I thought or they would have laid off somebody else.” (Hollang, 2006, p.13)
These insecurities and anxieties are the other side of workforce redeployment and why being let go feels a lot more personal than it actually is. And, as it turns out, finding the right replacement job is trickier today than ever before, adding complexity to the lives of so many people. (Holland, 2006, p.13)
However, with a increased pool of educated workforce worldwide, more companies have the bargaining power to decide who to hire in order to maximise profits. The decision to hire or fire or retrench on the basis of the bottom line, had transformed the mutual relationship between employers and employees transactional. From the business perspective, a huge pool of people are objectified and thus viewed as a factor of production and thus an aspect of variable costs to be controlled in response to the market conditions. Below are exerpts from Holland’s book.
A flexible workforce is one that can be redeployed to other high-end jobs created as a result of the global economy (Holland, 2006, p.48). For now, the number of jobs going offshore are more than offset by the numbers of jobs being created as companies put their capital to different and more profitable uses. The jobs that go away come back in the form of jobs requiring higher levels of skill, and with the creation of greater value than those that left (Holland, 2006, p.48).
At all times, companies will be what they have always been, self interested economic entities determined to survive. Survival will require them to provide goods and services in some combination of quality and cost better than their competition. That is the context in which jobs exists today. How well of us are treated will be, as it always has been, contingent on the perceived value we create. Immediately following World War II, a college degree was the passport to the perception of being able to create value and land a good job. Perhaps for the first time in modern history, value creation has to be more real than apparent. Where one went to school will be less important than what that employee brings to the table. We are entering an age in which we can no longer afford our prejudices (Holland, 2006, p.79).
The difference between the low income worker and the middle class manager lies in their career opportunities and the means they earn a living. Beyond that, both are groups of people likely to feel financial hardship should their jobs cease. Only the Rich, with passive income, can afford to disregard the pressures of the labour market faced by majority of the population.
Job (N.D). BusinessDictionary.com. [Online]. Availale on: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/job.html. [Accessed 1 September 2012].
Holland, R.W., (2006). Are There Any Good Jobs Left? Career Management in the Age of the Age of Disposable Worker. Praeger Publishers: USA
AFP. (2012). Young South Koreans face jobless woes with ‘graduate glut’. The Straits Time. 27 August 2012. https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/asia/story/young-south-koreans-face-jobless-woes-graduate-glut-20120827&sa=U&ei=nd9BUJPeM8qNmQWk_4DoCQ&ved=0CAUQFjAA&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNE_QbB5jQ1U8R94Ng4alwmO-Dholg
Devie, S. (2012). Economy can support more graduates: Government. The Straits Time. 29 August 2012. [Online] Available on http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/singapore/story/economy-can-support-more-graduates-government-20120829 [Accessed 1 September 2012]