Disoccupazione-Morning-Future
Imagining Books 22 September Sep 2017 1100 22 September 2017

Unemployment? An old concept

Sociologist Pierpaolo Donati, the author of "Quale lavoro-L'emergere di un'economia relazionale”, has this to say: "You can not stop technology, but people are irreplaceable. Provided that..."

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His answer is clear: "To counteract the prevailing theory according to which work is disappearing (the so-called "end of work"), as argued by many, including Jeremy Rifkin.” This is how the sociologist Pierpaolo Donatiresponds to people who ask him why he felt the need to publish "Quale lavoro? L’emergere di un’economia relazionale” (published by Marietti 1820, 125 pages, 14 Euro, and not translated into English as of yet). His position is very clear, presented by the University of Bologna sociologist in this conversation.

But Professor, the crisis is not an invention of catastrophizing pessimists.…
We must agree. I am not saying that unemployment does not exist, but I do say that unemployment is not a congenital part of the economic system. It is the result of a social paradigm and a culture of work that is no longer in step with the times. As I wrote in my book, if the prevailing concept of work remains that of the modern era, as is still the case throughout most of the world, the problem of unemployment and job insecurity will once again be fought with old instruments. Such as the search for new forms of regulation of interests and of transactions between economic actors and politicians that move within the area of compromise between the State and the market. Labour policies based on the whole set of measures that I summarize in the lib/lab attitude (market freedom and equality ensured by the State) are, and will continue to be, intrinsically insufficient to cope with the problems of lack of work, and especially with the scarcity of satisfying jobs. The root problem that we must solve is that of a mechanistic idea of work.

Unemployment is not a congenital part of the economic system, but instead is the result of a social paradigm

What does that mean?
Too often in modern times, we still equate the work of a person with that of a machine. Up until yesterday, we had commonplace machines, which we can consider “stupid”. Human workers were irreplaceable: from this assumption, we developed contracts written by labour law experts, which are founded on the concept of a permanent job contract, the measurement of man hours, and the clear-cut separation between work and leisure time. Today, technological performance is much higher. The robot or the latest generation computer can replace the work of man. Especially if the type of work remains functional or mechanical. But this was the past. On the horizon, we have another model that is based on other concepts.

You talk about a "relational economy". Let’s get to the point: is this model capable of ensuring that everyone has a job?
The point is that, if we analyse reality, the idea of a relational economy is the more innovative scenario. In this scenario, machines will continue to exist and to fulfil their functions in the best possible way. On the other hand, people will devote themselves to relational tasks where technology can only be used to support the work, and never to replace it. In this sense, the paradox of unemployment as functional to a certain economic model of old-style industrial capitalism is eliminated. It would certainly be a big step.

What kind of work do you think would benefit from a relational economy?
There are many different areas: let’s consider all the healthcare, social and medical assistance jobs (according to the World Health Organization, 75% of patients require relational care while only in 25% of cases, there is a need for treatment with drugs or surgery), all artistic and cultural jobs, all jobs in the field of education, and all welfare services jobs, including the employees handling the large migratory processes. Let me underscore that we are not talking about a fantasies or a dream world: over the past twenty years, the International Labour Organization has documented that 80% of professions have changed, and it is likely that in the coming 20 years, 80% of professions will change again. Do you knows what that means?

What?
That a very high rate of innovation influences all types of work in the near future. This is the point.

The areas of coaching and counselling have unexplored margins of expansion

A few more examples?
The areas of coaching and counselling have unexplored margins of expansion. Another type of change that I have tried to identify is marked by the idea that new jobs will be "invented". The younger generations will have to create their own activities, occupations and jobs to enter the processes of technological, economic and social innovation (smart work). But this does not mean that work will become an individual DIY project. On the contrary, on-line work will decide whether start-ups succeed or fail, and it will influence the initiatives of new jobs in general. And then, we have the whole issue of co-production, which many of the more advanced companies are approaching, and that is valid in all sectors.

What is co-production?
Co-production means that you produce something that your user or customer really needs. The product or service emerges from the collaboration, or the relationship, between the two parties. However, the model that is still the most popular is the creation of a need. In the long run, this tends to produce two harmful effects: first, it does not provide answers to real needs and second, it generates obsolescence, i.e. loss of value and economic efficiency. In short, it produces what I define as a “stress economy”: workers are stressed out and customers/users are dissatisfied.