Decent Work

Cover of Decent Work

Opportunities and Challenges

Subject:

Synopsis

Table of contents

(13 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xv
Content available

Part 1 Setting the Scene: Decent Work

Abstract

‘Decent work’. The very phrase conjures up a range of images and interpretations. But what does it mean for practitioners? What does it mean for academics? Much has been spoken, and even more has been written, but there is still little consensus as to how these questions can be answered. This book aims to offer some answers by exploring the increasingly relevant topic of Decent Work from a range of perspectives. This initial chapter introduces readers to the purpose, rationale and structure of the book. It offers a description of the concept of Decent Work and introduces readers to the work of the Decent Work and Productivity Research Centre of Manchester Metropolitan University.

Abstract

This chapter reviews the literature surrounding the concept of decent work, beginning in 1999 with the International Labour Organization's (ILO's) decision to adopt the term as its primary goal, bringing together ‘four strategic objectives: the promotion of rights at work; employment; social protection; and social dialogue’ (Somavia, 1999, p. 6). Historical perspectives contrast decent work with ‘dignified work’, championed by more radical voices (Spooner & Waterman, 2015; Standing, 2008), but remind us that the organization's capacity to advance a radical agenda has always been constrained by its tripartite nature (Moore, Dannreuther, & Mollmann, 2015). Whilst some have critiqued decent work as lacking methodological precision (Burchell, Sehnbruch, Piasna, & Agloni, 2014), feminist scholars welcome its breadth, arguing that this has made space on the ILO's agenda for the protection of informal forms of employment where women workers are often over-represented (Prugl, 1999; Vosko, 2002). Psychologists argue that the ILO's concept of decent work can be enhanced by a focus on the lived experience of the individual worker, maintaining that the meaning and purpose of work are also important issues to consider. Their critique of the ILO's approach highlights the breadth of the concept and the challenges operationalising it, particularly across very different contexts (Di Fabio & Blustein, 2016). The term decent work also appears in the extensive political economy/international development literature analyzing the expansion of global value chains and their more nuanced re-versioning as global production networks. This body of work highlights the link between decent work (or its absence), the rise of transnational corporations and corresponding hollowing out of labour conditions along global supply chains, leading to increasing flexibilization/precarity as companies seek to maintain competitiveness (See, for example, Gereffi, Humphrey, Kaplinsky, and Sturgeon (2001). The chapter also includes a brief introduction to some of the attempts by the ILO and others to enable more of the world's workforce to access decent work – themes which will be expanded further in later chapters of this book.

Abstract

This chapter looks at the history of work from a social, economic and political perspective. It analyzes the beginning of work and of industrial relations, on a global scale. It goes on to speculate on in what way work will evolve in the immediate future, given technological change and ecological pressures.

Abstract

This chapter explores the development of an individual-level measure of decent work. It draws on a recent article written by the authors, which was part of a larger international project to validate a cross-cultural self-report measure of decent work within the context of the Psychology of Working Theory (Dodd et al., 2019). It discusses the importance of a psychological perspective on decent work to better understand working lives; summarizes the findings from the validation studies Decent Work Scale (DWS) in eight countries; outlines potential uses of the DWS; and considers the limitations of the DWS as well as challenges to conceptualizing decent work more generally.

Part 2 Organizational and Policy Drivers: Opportunities for Decent Work

Abstract

This chapter reviews work that examines the potential causes of inequality for women in employment in the UK. Amongst developed economies and based on mean hourly earnings, the UK has one of the highest gender pay gaps (ILO, 2018). The UK, therefore, illustrates some of the key theoretical and practical issues associated with greater gender equality that affect other countries to varying degrees. This chapter sets out key theoretical perspectives on gender inequality, summarizes important research, identifies research gaps and provides an agenda for future research. It highlights how there is no simple explanation for the disparities in pay between men and women; these disparities persist in the UK and elsewhere. Theories and empirical analyses, therefore, need to expand to identify other potential causes of gender inequality, extending ‘upwards’ to examine how the nature of firms varies across countries and ‘downwards’ to assess how union representatives influence equal opportunity policies in organizations.

Abstract

The interdependencies of people and planet have never been as stark as they are currently, with human-induced global issues prominent, not least climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic and issues of social justice and security. In parallel, institutions, academics and governments are moving towards greater understanding and appreciation of the interdependencies between human and physical systems to drive forward positive change. This chapter focuses on, within the miasmic complexity presented above, how the wider sustainability agenda interacts with the workforce (employees) for the benefit of themselves and their welfare and well-being, as well as that of their employer, the planet and wider society. In particular, the chapter explores two Frameworks – (1) the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (and particularly Goal 8, Decent Work and Economic Development); (2) the International Integrated Reporting Framework (I<IR>F) and particularly how human capital is represented.

Abstract

This chapter explores the relationship between entrepreneurship skills and decent work (DW), and how policy can help achieve this. We review the entrepreneurship skills literature in the context of DW, highlighting the key entrepreneurship skills needed in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Thereafter, we extract lessons from selected policy initiatives in countries with broad similarities (Australia, Canada, United States and England), through the lens of DW. Our review draws on peer-reviewed journals and key United Nations and global entrepreneurship platform publications. Entrepreneurship skills deficiencies have a detrimental impact on the success and sustainability of SMEs. Yet, SME's survival and growth is currently crucial, whereby organizations need to transform in response to changing environmental, political, technological and consumer needs. This is intensified by the challenges of Covid-19, severely affecting DW and productivity. To develop and retain even a semblance of ‘decent work’, entrepreneurs need to develop appropriate skills and there is a need for suitable policy addressing this. In this chapter, we present lessons learnt based on our review and provide recommendations for entrepreneurship skills development policies aligning with DW.

Part 3 Atypical Jobs: A Challenge to Decent Work

Abstract

The digital platform economy has wide-ranging implications for the nature of work in the twenty-first century. The ease at which suppliers and demanders of labour come together across digital platforms creates a very new kind of labour market characterized by hyper-flexibility and an ambiguous employment relationship. Platform work has been hailed as providing employment opportunities for young people entering the labour market and other groups for whom access to more traditional forms of work is compromised (e.g. women with caring responsibilities or people with chronic health issues), or simply those seeking easily accessible, flexible work (e.g. students). On the other hand, unions and grassroots activist campaigners have highlighted the poor conditions that shape the experience of platform work, such as low pay, lack of choice over working time, tight control over the labour process and a dependency on platforms that belies their self-employed status. These dimensions of decent work are examined in the context of France and the United Kingdom, two countries which represent very different employment contexts (Milner, 2015), and thus provide insights into how specific country contexts may mediate the experience of platform work and the policy response.

Abstract

This chapter examines the evolving nature of work patterns and income streams for contemporary Musicians in the United Kingdom. It explores the experiences of independent, portfolio career Musicians working in the Rock/Pop/Indie/Jazz Live Music scene. The Music industry is reported to contribute £5.2bn in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the economy, of which according to UK Music (2019) £2.5bn is generated by ‘Creative Sector’ workers, which includes performing Musicians. Despite these high revenues, UK Music (2019) consistently reports that many Musicians earn below the average working wage of other professions. Challenges to Musicians' work and income streams have been compounded by changes in consumption of Music due to digitization, a lack of systematic support from government for grassroots venues and unequal revenue distribution. In this context, we reveal findings from research interviews with Musicians, which were conducted just before and during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic (mainly in the North of England and Wales). Our research discovers how these Musicians utilize informal community mechanisms to navigate poor working conditions, value ‘dignity’ and ‘meaningfulness’ above remuneration and often default to individualist assumptions regarding career success.

Abstract

Using a critical employment relations approach, the chapter illustrates the implications of labour market reforms for workers. It traces changes in public policy and includes worker reflections on their conditions from data collected during 2018–2019. It unravels the antagonistic and conflict-driven elements of the employment relationship; a relationship that has been re-shaped by the active role of the State whose intervention favoured the employers' side at the expense of employees' interests. In addition, to shed light on the effects of the pandemic that broke out in February–March 2020, the chapter also draws upon secondary data such as newspaper articles and reports, as access to workers during the pandemic was practically difficult while the latter is still evolving. The chapter concludes by demonstrating that the crisis and labour market reforms was an opportunity for employers to introduce and implement a cost-cutting agenda that was in clear conflict with basic facets of a decent work agenda.

Abstract

The final chapter acts as an epilogue and captures key themes from the book, concluding with a call to action for a future of work that is decent. Reflecting upon the disruption caused by Covid-19, the chapter highlights the importance of Decent Work for economic recovery and illustrates the value of a Decent Work lens for research about work and working lives. It also summarizes the opportunities for policymakers and employers to make Decent Work a reality for more citizens, whilst also exploring the many challenges and structural barriers that inhibit Decent Work.

Index

Pages 147-152
Content available
Cover of Decent Work
DOI
10.1108/9781801175869
Publication date
2021-09-29
Editors
ISBN
978-1-80117-587-6
eISBN
978-1-80117-586-9