It is very difficult to tell somebody which job to choose if he would like to work in his chosen vocation even in 30-40 years’ time. It is not easy even for the parent to which direction to shepherd his or her child, whether to force him to learn to play the piano or rather to force foreign language courses, karate by chance so that his descendant could defend himself among the ruins of our civilization.
It can be evaluated in many ways, but it is without a doubt that big companies and state governments have formed such a special partnership where not necessarily the government is the dominant party. Galbraith, an American economist, who used to be President John F. Kennedy’s advisor, called attention in his book called New Industrial State to the fact that between big companies and the public sector there are so big links that make the USA’s economy somehow similar to planned economy that is typical of socialism. (His opinion about the surface differences between the two opposing world trends and substantive similarities is well exemplified by Galbraith’s old saying: “In capitalism people exploit people. In communism it happens just inversely.)
In the 1970s, perhaps because of Galbraith, the convergence theory became popular with intellectuals, according to which the two world orders “capitalism and communism” actually work on the basis of similar principles and they are heading in the same direction. Today it may seem to be funny. Evidently, the effectiveness of a former socialist big company cannot be compared to present day multinationals. Even though there are some similarities, that is both organizations can elicit big sums of money from the state.
“Nowadays the determination of the state to provide its citizens with welfare is greatly obstructed by the freedom of capital because if conditions of taxation and employment are unfavorable, it leaves the country”, wrote George Soros in his work called Crisis of Global Capitalism. Thus, big companies are in good bargain positions against the governments, let they be of any kind of color.
Freelancers, “the trade unions’ nightfall”
It is a typical tendency, that the employment in our country and worldwide is becoming increasingly more flexible, atypical employment forms, part-time jobs, renting labor force, self-employment (“freelancing”) are spreading. For freelancing in Hungary, the practice of which contradicted here and there with a system inherited from the previous regime and with the Labour Law (Minka Törvénykönyve) defending employees’ rights relatively strongly, the Hungarian government tries to give new frameworks.
The tendency is appropriate for the employers since on the basis of the changing orders he can always keep the number of his employees on an optimal level. The trend is less appropriate for the employees who are usually called entrepreneurs, but they are all occasional employees, who sometimes have work and sometimes do not. Spreading of freelancing offers a benefit for the employers’ that their employees are unable to exploit the means of the collective interest enforcements. It is the European Union’s expressed intention to make labor regulation more flexible, which could force the economy into the direction of bigger employment. But according to the critics of the union’s labor politics, as a result of this, the average standard of wages will decrease, but its dispersion will rise (the wage disparities will be increasingly bigger within certain sectors and occupations).
Changing work concept
When the factory mass production started to spread, the nature of work went through drastic changes similar to the present one. Marx and others (for example the workers themselves) related to work ”split onto parts” quite hostilely, where the worker’s role was restricted to the execution of a particular workflow in production. The essence of work that is the creation was lost.
By today already not only the factories’ line workers, but even employees in the service industry are not definitely able to utilize their creativity even in the smallest measure. At certain big firms intentions can be noticeable to press the employees’ behavior standards into protocols. It is defined, how to let them greet each other, what to let them ask, how to let them say goodbye and all of these are checked. Moreover, “if they are employed by a firm with bigger capital power”, their work today is already made in a strongly automated environment. To be able to perform their duty anybody can be trained in a single day. According to this, the employees can be easily replaced, because of this, they are underpaid.
There are some jobs like the designer of the machines or the creators of the programs, for which creative thinking is necessary. The only question is how large the proportion of the population is that can access this now or will be able to make it available for themselves in the future.
Is it the end of work?
People used to believe that the machines would work, the people would think in the future, but the situation is the opposite today: the machines think, the people work we could say it in a malicious way. There are some people who think that the people in the future will not work at all because there will not be places where to work and there will not be anything to do.
Jeremy Rifkin wrote his work called The End of Work, which has become a bestseller and called the public opinion both in Europe and the USA. According to Rifkin, after the automation of agriculture and industry, nowadays services are more and more automated. (Let’s think only the Japanese food stores working without employees or the hotel chains even well-known in Europe that work without receptionists.)
Nothing is waiting for the workforce that has been made redundant, differently from the time when agriculture and industry were automated and the third sector, the expanding services soaked the workforce up. But there is no fourth sector, where the workers who turned to be unnecessary could find work and find incomes. Rifkin suggests the introduction of the 30-hour working weeks and the guaranteed annual salary to the governments of the future.
Viviane Forrester paints similar horrors in her book called Economic Horror. Ralf Dahrendorf also called attention in his book with a related topic to the fact that work may turn into a privilege in the future. The gap between the people whose work is necessary and the ones whose work is not will become bigger and bigger.
An artist or a scientist?
“Jeremy Rifkin’s fears in connection with motorisation are not without any foundations, although the idea is not the first time in the course of our history that machines take away work from people have opened its head”, said László Z. Karvalics, the director of The Information Society and Trend Research Centre. “It is impossible to give comforting answers to these worrying questions in advance. It is for sure, that it is difficult to draw the conclusion from the tendencies of the present situations referring to the distant future. In the United Kingdom, even the economists were taken aback that the income of the rock industry exceeded the one of the whole national iron and steel industry in the 1970s. Nowadays people thinking about the future of the employment rarely take into consideration the growing income of the rock industry, the game industry, the media industry and the related services. But just through the development of these and similar sectors can find working opportunities those who are made redundant even in the third sector. Of course, not in the way that the cashier suddenly becomes a creative one, and let us say he starts preparing a cartoon, but he will shepherd his child already towards the occupations requiring creativity”, believes László Z. Karvalics.
As the director believes, the two most remarkable characters of the future will be the Artist and the Scientist on the one hand, and on the other hand, all trades and practical activities relating to maintenance and extension of the humans’ living space will be appreciated: primarily in connection with water, with our atmosphere, with soil, with weather, with hygiene, with health, and even those that are related to space activities.
Working hours will decrease in the long term, and the increased spare time will be spent on creating activities or on entertainment. The concept of the working hours itself is slowly losing its meaning since the typical occupations of the future will be the artist’s and the scientist’s, who are ambitious and because of this, they are internally motivated. László Z. Karvalics agrees with the analysts according to whom the classical form of employment will be forced back in the future, and “freelancing” will get an increasingly bigger role. He thinks that there will be winners and losers during this process but in the long run, it will transform the labor market in a healthy way.
Rifkin, the research director does not consider his proposal about ”the annual income that is due on a subjective right” unimaginable, though not as a solution with general validity, but as one of the simultaneously working model. He believes at the same time, that “since there always will be scores of positions to be performed, tasks, for which the market does not offer a solution”, the governments of the developed world will offer guaranteed incomes for the future unemployed not “without any offset”.
They may ask some higher valued work with the public benefit (social activities, research assistance, educational assistance services, organizing and duty activities) or just learning, offering the sole chance of freelancing and an income acquisition “in return”, the research director expects so.
The herd does not know when it is yesterday when it is today, they live momentarily and because of this they are not melancholic, neither world-weary, says Nietzsche in one of his anachronistic meditations.
Being a man is undoubtedly hard. Consciousness keeps his past offenses, insecurity of the future hides dangers gives rise to concerns. Troubles may threaten health, the happiness of privacy, and there may be troubles even in the world of work. So danger threatens our sheer living conditions.
Living on wages and salary is like tightrope walking without a safety net. The employee can not make anything else in this situation where insecurity has turned into certainty, but swim with the tide. He yielded to his fate that he has to change his job even several times in his life. He attends courses, possibly a correspondence course, universities. Of course, he inquires how much the degree is worth and does not let anybody make fool of himself. He is keeping an eye on the labor market and looking for the opportunities. He is a gap, like the Cub Scout. He thinks of the future, but he is not worried about it. He is optimistic, but realistic at the same time. As Cromwell says, “Trust God, but keeps the gunpowder dry”.