Work and work environment, focusing on the labor market conditions and modern architectural solutions for high-quality and sustainable workplaces.
From the resolutions of the European Parliament to the forecasts issued by the OECD and the ILO, there is great concern about employment. The labor market is highly unstable in all the advanced economies, and this instability is beginning to spread to the emerging countries too.
In its “World of Work Report 2011”, the International Labor Organization observes that the effects of the slowdown of the global economy are being felt on the employment market not only in the advanced nations, but also in several emerging or developing countries. For a return to pre-crisis levels, 80 million new jobs are needed around the world in the next two years, but current estimates suggest only half that number will be created.
The OECD Economic Outlook published November 2011 refers to a “significant deterioration” in the world economy and downgrades its growth projections formulated in the first half of the year. The OECD refers to a “mild recession”, but with a strong downward trend, voicing alarm over the European debt crisis, which, it warns, is a “risk to the global economy” that could send the entire OECD area into recession unless sufficient corrective action is taken. Equally worrying are the figures on employment, which in September 2011 were the worst since June 2010, with a 10.2% unemployment rate and 44.8 million jobless: a phenomenon that is turning from a cyclical into a structural problem.
Under the Europe 2020 strategy, in October the European Union launched an ambitious plan to reach an employment rate of 75% of the working-age population (20-64 years) by 2020: a target that depends heavily on economic growth and the sustainability of all member states’ pension systems and public finances. The vote on the “flexicurity” report was an important step for the creation of good-quality employment and the strengthening of the European social model.
Decentralized bargaining processes, tax cuts, job flexibility, lifelong learning, specialization, innovative locally-based contractual models, intercompany welfare, geographical mobility: all these elements can certainly play a vital role in safeguarding economic growth and competitiveness. But a discussion about new developments in work and new tools must also include enhancement of professional roles and protection of the dignity of work.
Dignity reflected in the labor the worker offers today’s industrial society and in the material and spiritual remuneration he or she receives. The meaning of work needs to be re-defined, based not solely on the logic of profit and short-term success, but on the dignity inherent in the concept of the person. The worker as a “person”, an individual who, through his work, seeks a solution to his desires, his value and his skills, a solution that contributes to his respect for himself, his family, his job and for society in general.
The economic crisis has unmasked the ambiguities surrounding the concept of work—trapped for years in the opposing logics of worker rights, efficiency and profit—and presented an interpretation that evokes its ideal value and its psycho-social function as the starting point for a good life, a life worth living. Work that gives significance to the existence of the individual, who, through his profession, realizes his “human beingness” both at the level of personal satisfaction and at the level of his place in the world. And enterprises that successfully reconcile the real economy and production with the working, social and cultural lives of their people.