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ID number:979658
Published: 08.06.2006.
Language: English
Level: College/University
Literature: 9 units
References: Not used


This paper deals with the development of work and its organization during the last 40 years and the related employment and labour market aspects and problems. Both qualitative and quantitative aspects will be discussed. Furthermore the paper will analyse labour market measures taken to deal with different employment problems and types of unemployment. In the second part of the paper future trends of work and work organization will be discussed, taking globalization of economy and broad diffusion of advanced technology as most important facts of influence. Those new developments represent a major challenge to the labour market and employment policies of regional actors concerned.

1. Changes of work and work organization
1.1 The Fordist production model and the labour market

Until the beginning of the 1970s Fordism has been the dominant production model in the highly industrialized regions of Europe. The logic of rationalization, on which this production model is based, has determined the quantitative and qualitative demand of human labour. The Fordist production model proceeds from the assumption of an unlimited demand on standardized mass products. A stable market can be seen as a prerequisite for applying organizational principles, characteristic for the Fordist model such as to divide and specialize at most productive tasks, to centralize decisions about production, to minimize skill demands of productive tasks and to establish hierarchical control (Boyer 1989). Human labour is seen mainly as a risk factor and a source of uncertainty, which either has to be eliminated by technology or - if not possible or too costly - has to be reduced in its contribution to the production process to simple operations, which can easily be controlled by management. The semi-skilled worker became the dominant figure in the Fordist production model. Qualified workers were usually under-used. Companies applied the policy of "hire and fire", which means that they immediately fired workers when an economic downswing started and they hired workers as soon as an economic upswing could be seen on the horizon. This strategy could be applied because it took workers only a few days to learn their tasks. The cost for training were minimal.

Dismissal of workers, caused by technical rationalization, has been more than compensated by the increased demand for standardized goods triggered by reduced prices as consequence of this rationalization process. Due to this self-stabilizing process during the period of Fordism hardly any employment problem occured. The cost reducing effect of economies of scale resulted in lower prices, which on their part have stimulated new demand. The need to increase production capacity has created new jobs.

Only cyclical fluctuations could cause some employment problems of a temporary nature. This could be the case if the enlargement of the production capacity has been too fast leading to overproduction or if the demand weakened leading to underconsumption. In general both developments occured at the same time; so it is difficult to decide whether overproduction or underconsumption was the main factor which caused employment problems. However cyclical unemployment during the time of the Fordist production regime never lasted for a long time; it disappeared with the next economic upswing.

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