Do You Know Where Your Job is Going?

It’s Labor Day, and I have an important question for you: do you know where your job is going?

It’s an important question because, to quote the Harvard Business Review, “Growing number(s) of employers are increasingly committed to not being committed.”

In the late 20th century, Toyota’s Just in Time theory of inventory management revolutionized the way that US auto factories ran, after Toyota spent a few years eating GM’s lunch. Today’s employers have adopted a similar philosophy, only they aren’t worried about inventory oversupply–they’re fighting against any worker downtime.

Whether called “zero hour contracts” in the UK, or “day labor” or “contingent work” in the US, the phenomenon of employers wanting more flexibility from their workforce is on the rise. And for the most part, they’re getting what they want.

The question is–what are we getting in return?

It’s a funny thing to say on Labor Day, but I’m going to say it anyway:

Why do we all still have to have full-time jobs?

I know that there are practical reasons for it, in our current economy. If you don’t have a full-time job, you don’t have a full-time income, and you don’t have health care, and you don’t have any kind of retirement security, or ability to save for the future (you might not have that even if you have full-time work, of course).

But let me ask it again:

Why do we all still have to have full-time jobs?

Productivity is up.
Profits are up.

What’s not up? The standard of living for most people in the United States. Because we have a society that’s fundamentally based on the idea that everyone has to work 40 hours a week, in order to earn a living.

That idea is the product of the labor movement in the early 19th century, and it was a radical idea at the time. “8 hours for work, 8 hours for rest, 8 hours for what you will.”

8 hours

Why are will still demanding to work full-time, as if it’s the 19th century?

What could we demand, instead?

It’s an interesting question to ponder on Labor Day.

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