Sunday, 16 June 2013

Message In The Data

The message, I believe, is always in the data. Sure, you have to look closely, and if you listen hard enough you will hear it shout out.

Makes 'the data' sound like a little furry creature who frequents Parisian nightclubs, enjoys a glass of Remy Martin, tries to impress ladies with his street dance and plays Linkin Park's Meteora very loud indeed!!

Empty Construction Site

Data is very important information which helps us track down and analyse our rapidly changing world, and all the patterns and trends emerging from innovation and altered ways of doing. It informs us of our transforming/morphing lives and helps us make sense of, what I like to call, the re-evolution of our contemporary world - socially, economically and politically.

Revisiting William Bridges' 'The End of Jobs' article - first published in Fortune magazine on September 19, 1994 - Dr Jan Hively directs our attention to the fact that :

"(Today), 50% of working Americans are working for income in other ways than in traditional jobs. Current work models include freelance workers, consultants, contingency workers, independent contractors and temps." (Adapting to the End of Jobs (with an Emphasis on Productive Aging), Dr Jan Hively, 2013).

But what does the above actually mean for real time America and the rest of the world?

Well, in one of the most advanced nations on Earth, half the workforce are no longer protected by traditional contracts of employment.  Agreements, once designed to give guarantees of hours of work and protections to the employee, are being replaced by watered down versions with no financial cover for holidays or sickness or extended employment rights. So, what's changed?

"Bridges predicted that labor saving technologies would end up eliminating full-time employees who fulfill strictly prescribed duties for unvarying pay during regular hours" Dr Hively explains. "He saw that traditional jobs are rigid solutions to an elastic problem in a fast-moving economy. Employers focused on cutting costs are not going to hire full-time employees if they can't keep them busy full-time. And they already have laid off most of the middle managers who acted as employee supervisors."

But it's not just middle-management that is feeling the pinch. Those who once worked massive production lines are also witnessing technological advance rendering them redundant.

Across the pond, the UK is facing equally rapid and life-altering labour market change.  British trade unions are actively calling for so-called 'zero hours' contracts to be made illegal.

Since 2008, data shows that 'jobs' where workers have little or no employment rights in respect of regular income or guarantees of weekly hours have doubled. In this situation the employee has to sit around without pay until the employer phones to offer work.

Predominantly found in the retail and hospitality industry, zero hours practice has hopped across the divide and been found alive and well and thriving in the public sector. The NHS (National Health Service) has witnessed a 25% increase in employees working to the uneven rhythm of zero hours contracts.

Critics say that this system of operating working relationships leads to exploitation and poverty and leaves employees at risk of bullying and harassment.

What we do and how we work is inextricably linked to who we are and how we live as people. Work gives people 'value', it affords them a lifestyle, often makes life meaningful, it is, for the vast majority of us, a really significant elephant in the room of our existence.  Our sanity and the quality of our lives shared with loved ones and family and friends, are related to what we do and how we do it.

Revisiting William Bridges can never be wrong, and though he was writing 20 years ago, as Dr Hively has shown, his work still resonates in the 21st century.

When Lehman Brothers collapsed at 1.45 am on September 15, 2008, triggering the biggest financial crisis since 1929, the human cost was, at least, 26,000 staff (employed by the company worldwide).  As we know, globally, many, many more have since lost their jobs related to the financial crisis.

I believe, that significant moment changed the social, political and economic axis of the world forever. Admittedly, it was changing anyway, but it speeded the process up.

This, for me, is the 're-evolution' that we are now starting to live through. The 2008 crash, tied in with other forces of change such as technology, demographic trends, emerging economies, cyber globalisation and urbanisation ( it is predicted that by 2050 around 70% of us will live in cities and towns), will change, alter and transform the way we work, and subsequently, understand and live our lives.

Why it is happening right now, just look at the data!

(I would like to express my gratitude to Dr Jan Hively for allowing me to quote from her paper 'Adapting to the End of Jobs(with an Emphasis on Productive Aging)')

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