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25 November 2015

New jobs in Europe: quality gone AWOL

The ‘knowledge society’ is failing to get rid of ‘hard work’, Ursula Holtgrewe declares in a recent volume dedicated to growth sectors in Europe. At a public presentation of the book on 17 November at ETUI the sociologist, from Johannes Kepler University, Linz (Austria), showed that the EU was struggling to get ‘quality’ and ‘quantity’ into line.

The ‘knowledge society’ is failing to get rid of ‘hard work’, Ursula Holtgrewe declares in a recent volume dedicated to growth sectors in Europe. At a public presentation of the book on 17 November at ETUI the sociologist, from Johannes Kepler University, Linz (Austria), showed that the EU was struggling to get ‘quality’ and ‘quantity’ into line.

Between 2000 and 2007 more than 50 per cent of the jobs created were of ‘poor quality’, being precarious, badly paid or unsatisfactory in terms of working conditions or social inclusion.

‘Job creation, largely left to the market, has trumped job quality’, was how the researcher summarised the situation.

This applies particularly in services, confirms Monique Ramioul. ‘The quality jobs in knowledge industries have been offset by strong growth in certain services sectors that offer poor quality jobs’, she said. The researcher at the Catholic University of Louvain (KU Leuven) particularly singles out new sectors in which heavy manual labour is still a feature, such as recycling, sewage and refuse disposal and underlines the strenuous nature of work in consumer services (hotels and restaurants, retail, leisure and so on).

These jobs are characterised by an imbalance between the high degree of effort required and poor reward, as well as extreme flexibility that is not mitigated by job security. Not surprisingly, workers in these sectors – in which women, young people and immigrants are overrepresented – report being much less satisfied and happy than other workers.

Vassil Kirov (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences) pointed to the responsibilities of consumers and clients with regard to the deterioration of working conditions. They are becoming more and more demanding with regard to quality and flexibility on the part of workers, which is compounded by a constant pressure to reduce costs.

For more information:

Holtgrewe U., Kirov, V. and Ramioul M. (eds) Hard work in new jobs. The quality of work and life in European growth sectors (July 2015)

The authors’ PowerPoint presentations:

Holtgrewe, U., Hard work in new jobs. The quality of work and life in European growth sectors (pdf - 520.44 Kb)
Ramioul, M., New and growing jobs in the EU (pdf - 296.69 Kb)
Kirov, V., Social Partnership and Institutions (pdf - 104.99 Kb)
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