How soon, how honestly and how effectively North American societies address these questions will determine whether the democratic forms of government in the United States and Canada can be sustained and whether our limited environmental 'capital' can be protected to provide choices for future generations. The latter goal is the explicit centerpiece of the Brundtland Commission's prescription for "sustainable development" . It requires that renewable resources be carefully used so as to maintain or increase current stocks, and that non-renewables be depleted only at a rate that permits the development of substitutes. Thus movement toward sustainability precludes any large-scale 'creation of jobs' that depend on increasing the rates or destructiveness of natural resource use.
My objective here is to promote timely recognition of the need for governments to consult openly with all of their citizens about the political and environmental challenges posed by the fundamental changes taking place in the nature of work. Only through such an open process can North Americans hope to sustain what is best in our societies during this challenging period.
In this article, I first discuss briefly the need for all sectors of society, once having obtaineded accurate information about real rates of un- and underemployment, to examine and address the implications of changing patterns of work for the societal tasks of income distribution and education. Second, I review and comment on a range of alternative policies and initiatives that have been put forward from various quarters to address the problems posed by ubiquitous long-term structural unemployment and underemployment. These evaluative comments emphasize the desirability of giving close attention to the environmental, equity and human-development aspects of all such proposals, in addition to applying the standard decision criteria related to "economic feasibility" and "social/political acceptability." Five types of policy proposals are discussed: reduction of work time, redesigning jobs and workers' organizational roles, redefinition of work, increased self-sufficiency and guaranteed annual income.
While there is nothing deterministic in the nature of the new technology (in that it offers choices relating to how work in the future can be organized), there is a real danger that if it is used purely as a means of enhancing managerial control by eliminating jobs and deskilling work-force, we will be faced with the prospect of a society with a small number of highly skilled technical jobs, large pools of unemployment and those workers who do have jobs will be subject to increasing forms of electronic montitoring and control. In sum, it seems safe to conclude that the new jobs that are created will come from information services and particularly from personal services; such jobs will be few and far between and will be nowhere near sufficient to return us to anything resembling the full employment that we experienced during the 1950s and 1960s; and finally, most of the new jobs (with the exception of those requiring very high technical skills) are likely to be inferior in job content and in terms of working conditions4.I quote Gill at length because he described very well an increasingly plausible scenario for the next 30-60 years. Only within the past several years have these changing patterns of work been discussed openly in the North American mass media5, despite the attention given them in government and scholarly publications6
In labour circles, there has been growing awareness of the problems posed by a globalizing economy working in concert with technological innovation in the workplace. Typical is a 1987 union-sponsored study of technological change in the auto industry. It concluded that new technologies such as robotics and statistical process control cannot be viewed as neutral nor as having only positive or only negative impacts on workers. Rather, the effects of automation on work are not predetermined, uniform nor uni-directional; they can be influenced through a strategy of active participation and involvement by workers in the technological change process. The report stresses, however, that what effects the introduction of new technologies had on the nature and number of jobs were almost completely matters of management discretion.7 This continues to be the case.
In the context of technological innovation occurring simultaneously with economic globalization, it is the possible polarization of our society -- into an increasingly poor, "redundant", deskilled underclass and a small, affluent, technical-professional elite -- that must be faced and dealt with now, not only by unions and the private sector but by North American society at large.8 Arguably, the only immediate positive aspect of this situation is that many dirty, dangerous, monotonous jobs will be eliminated or automated.
In unpleasant scenarios for the future, the group now referred to as 'the working poor' could increase in size as more jobs are eliminated or down-waged. In particular, automation of such female 'job ghettos' in the service sector as banking and clerical work, in conjunction with similar moves in the industrial sector reaching into the skilled and middle-management ranks, could reduce two-income families to one income, and that perhaps a minimal one based on a lower-paying, non-union job in the fast food, tourism or nursing home sector. This downward mobility (for so it will be perceived and experienced, at least in the transition), together with long-term unemployment for increasing numbers of individuals and families, will exact an even heavier toll than at present. This will be felt in reduced purchasing power and material standard of living as well as, more cruelly, in eroded self-esteem, family breakdown, rising crime rates and all of the other well-documented consequences of unemployment and underemployment.9 On this path lies the resort to some form of authoritarianism.
It is now important for North Americans to examine new directions for education in the context of accelerating structural changes in the nature of work in North America. We need to develop research, consultation and pilot projects that involve educators, parents and students (including adult students) in designing a new educational system. In general outline, this system would be one that provides not only the basic foundational skills on which all learning depends, but also the broader range of skills, interests and concerns--perhaps most vitally, 'eco-literacy'--which can enable people to play a richer variety of roles in a society that has less need for 'employees' and more for 'environmental stewards'11. Distributional Aspects. If there are going to be fewer secure, full-time, adequately-waged jobs in the future, justice dictates that we should not continue to penalize and stigmatize people who cannot find such positions. We must examine other mechanisms for allocating work and distributing income. Society's responses to these structural changes, hampered by governments' reluctance to detail actual levels of un- and underemployment, have not been notably effective.
In North America, two intensifying trends have been the movement toward a significant increase in the proportion of new jobs that are temporary and part-time and the widespread nature of overtime work, including flouting by employers of the laws that regulate the use of scheduled overtime.17 While employed people are working longer hours than ever before, it is not clear how many new jobs would be created by reduction of overtime work, and this is a key question. Studies suggest that many employees would be willing to trade increased vacation, sabbatical or retirement periods for less income18, but others undoubtedly want the increased income from overtime. In attempting to evaluate policy options in this area of reduced work time, a closer look at scheduled and non-scheduled overtime in the United States and Canada would be instructive.
In general, work-time reduction can be viewed as only one component in a strategy to address structural unemployment. From a positive perspective, temporary work-time reduction may have its uses in dealing with temporary unemployment peaks. Certainly a flexible approach to hours and other units of required work should be investigated further as a component of a necessarily multi-faceted approach to structural unemployment.
With regard to the redesign of tasks and decision-making processes, "worker participation" has traditionally been seen as a key concept for effecting positive change19 while "scientific management" in its less benign versions from Taylorism to electronic surveillance is regarded by thoughtful analysts both in and out of industry as generally counter-productive. 20 There has long been evidence that "jobs which offer variety and require the individual to exercise discretion over his work activities lead to enhanced well-being and mental health."21 If this is the case -- and few healthy employees would argue that it is not -- then decision processes about job design and technological innovation must be opened to the workers involved, both on moral grounds and because it is very likely that greater productivity results from employee participation in decisions relating to their work as well as from productivity bonuses, profit-sharing and employee share-ownership plans.
The issue of employee ownership and/or management relates, of course, to the second question of redesign mentioned above, that of the basic control structure of organizations in which work takes place. Since this touches on what can only be called deep ideology, it will not be discussed in detail here. It is possible, however, that decisions about who is allowed to work and how paid work might be shared among the largest number of people might be perceived differently by workers with effective control over community-based enterprises than by private sector multi-nationals managers and shareholders. While this question remains largely unaddressed, there are some useful recent compendia of detailed, analytical case studies of alternative work organization such as cooperative and community corporations.22 Needed now are studies of how technological change might be handled in organizations with different types of worker control over job re-design, and over decisions about job security and long-term planning.23
Interestingly, Gorz argues for the standardization and simplification of socially-necessary job tasks so that this work can be easily traded or shared. If all necessary work required highly skilled workers, this would "rule out the distribution and redistribution of a diminishing amount of work among as many people as possible. And thus it would tend to concentrate jobs and power in the hands of..the labour elite, and to consolidate dualistic social stratification."25 This is, of course, an audacious, arguably utopian, proposal for a redefinition of work, the details and problems of which are addressed at length by its author, and merit wider discussion and debate.
Failure to solicit and carefully examine such seemingly 'far-out' ideas of how to manage societal transformation in the specific context of radically changing patterns of work will limit our ability to identify emergent issues and to address them effectively. From the standpoints of equity and human development, if adequately waged, long-term , full-time (30-40 hours per week) jobs can no longer be provided for all or the vast majority of citizens, then creative redefinitions of work and of income are required to allow people to find identity, self-esteem, social recognition and intrinsic satisfaction in a variety of activities that are other than paid jobs or may be in addition to a limited amount of allocated waged work.
Surely there should be no excuse for allowing an unmitigated societal slide into a situation where vast numbers of North American citizens have no socially useful work to do, are unwillingly un- or under-employed, and are trapped in a permanent, stigmatized, economically-marginal or totally-dependent underclass where children face ever-decreasing opportunities. Yet 'the deficit' is now routinely given as governments' excuse for inaction and the imperative of 'competitiveness' is the private sector's out. No society is sustainable that denies a substantial portion of its members secure access to the basic goods, services and human dignity that maintain wellbeing and permit full participation in that society. North Americans need to find the ways, the means and the will to deal with the changes that are upon us so as to ensure that the basic needs of all can be met..
"The giveaway part of the [Canadian] income security system when it provides benefits to the poor does so only with many strings attached...while the 'take-away' part of the system taxes the well-to-do with fewer strings attached, at lower marginal rates, and with more generous definitions of income, family and the accounting system. When the 'give-away' part of the system is providing benefits to the middle class-or well-to-do...there is less stigma and less formal parliamentary accountability."27Proposals for any version of a GAI raise fundamental questions of fairness and tap into deep-rooted stereotypes and value conflicts about dependency, worthiness and virtue. More open discussion of these questions could, arguably, increase the political acceptability of GAI proposals. At the least, it could bring debatable assumptions into the light for closer examination.
The central point to consider in debating the merits and workability of a guaranteed basic income program for North America is the unfairness of withholding such support from increasing numbers of people who are unemployed or underemployed through no fault of their own, because adequate jobs for them do not exist. In a globalizing economy, the introduction of new technologies in the workplace is but one major factor in the gradual elimination of both 'good' and 'bad' jobs in the industrial and service sectors. In the most challenging scenario, North Americans will no longer be needed in great numbers to produce goods and provide services. The discussions we have now, the choices we make now, will determine what scenario emerges from this unprecedented situation.28
Retraining, better initial training and basic education, job-sharing, reduced work weeks, and the like will all play a role in easing us into a hopefully well-designed and thus positive new society. But during this transition, the ownership and management structures of the economy will remain largely in private hands, with maximum profits rather than job creation the overriding interest; thus it is imperative that those who see what is happening find ways to educate North Americans about the changing patterns of employment and about why these changes require the redefinition of "job", "employment", and "work". Without an explicit effort to change public understanding and perception there will never be social and political acceptance of an adequate GAI program designed to provide such real options and alternatives as engaging in community service, continuing education, innovative entrepreneurship, co-operative ventures, and the like.29
The GAI concept is not a new one in either the U.S. or Canada, and it has been critically evaluated in 'negative income tax' (NIT) pilot programs in both countries.30 Whether the NIT or some other model drawn from British or Continental research is taken as a starting point, serious work should begin now to address the problems inherent in designing and implementing equitable and effective North American GAI programs. The potential human and political costs of failing to address emerging new societal patterns are unacceptable.
In open discussion and debate, North Americans must develop policy initiatives that imaginatively address the challenges inherent in quite plausible unpleasant scenarios of the future, rather than allow business 'gurus', traditional economists, and anxious academics to weaken our political will as they argue about the accuracy of various 'predictions' for the future.32 Sustainable development will become a dream of the past if we do not now acknowledge the fundamental nature of the global economic and social changes that are occurring, and of their impacts on work and employment. Only if North Americans face these new realities can we re-invent the human quest in ways that allow us to live in harmony with one another and with our life-supporting biosphere.
Gill's 1985 description appears to have been a strikingly accurate forecast of what we are experiencing today, except that North America has not yet developed the "new forms of social organization" mentioned in his last point : "Many of the arguments which have been put forward throughout this book point to a very different form of work organization from the kind we have known in the past. If the present trends are significant, we are likely to see: 1.A situation where full employment cannot be guaranteed, and where fewer and fewer people are involved in paid full-time employment.; 2.A manufacturing sector that is smaller in terms of people employed but operating at considerably higher levels of productivity than at present, and more reliance on shift-work and subcontracting; 3.A demand for more highly technically qualified people to service the growing 'telematics' sector as well as more specialists and professionals, but fewer less-qualified workers; 4. Shorter working lives, increasing flexibility in work tasks, more part-time and home-working, short-term contracts based on fees rather than guaranteed life-time employment, and more self-employmen; 5.Work organizations in the future will be much smaller both in physical terms and also in the number of people they employ ; 6.The boundaries between leisure and work will become increasingly blurred and much more importance will be placed on the 'informal' economy or the home and the community; 7.There will be an increased demand for education at all levels; 8.A smaller earning population and a larger dependent population; 9. Fewer manual jobs and a much smaller (and weakened) trade union movement; 10.More 'self-servicing' in the home and the community; 11.New forms of social organization and government to complement the changes in the organization of work." Gill, ibid, pages 167-68. J. Robertson, 'The challenge for new economics', in D. Boyle, editor, The New Economics of Information (London: The New Economics Foundation, 1989; J. Robertson, Future Work: Jobs, Self-Employment and Leisure After the Industrial Age (Aldershot, Hants, England, Gower/Maurice Temple Smith, 1985); C. Gill, Work, Unemployment and the New Technology (Oxford: Polity Press, Basil Blackwell, 1985) Gill, ibid, page 166 See, for example, R.J. Barnet, 'The end of jobs', Harper's, September 1993, pages 47-52; J. Vardy, 'Job hopes take sharp nosedive: part-time workers at record high', The Financial Post, August 7, 1993; M. Levinson, 'Can anyone spare a job?: why the world's jobless woes are getting worse', Newsweek, June 14, 1993, pages 46-48; C. Ansberry, 'Workers are forced to take more jobs with few benefits: firms use contract labor and temps to cut costs and increase flexibility',The Wall Street Journal, March 11, 1993, pages 1, 9; M. Magnet, 'Why job growth is stalled', Fortune, March 8, 1993, pages 51-57; Toronto Globe and Mail , Series on "The Jobless Recovery", Report on Business, January 11-16, 1993. W. Leontief and F. Duchin, The Future Impact of Automation on Workers (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986); J. P. Grayson, Plant Closures and De-Skilling: Three Case Studies (Ottawa: Science Council of Canada, 1986); S. Beer, 'The future of work', Futures Canada, Fall-Winter 1986, 8(2,3) pages 4-8; U. S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Automation of America's Offices (Washington, D. C., U.S. Government Printing Office, OTA-CIT-287, December, 1985); C. Jenkins and B. Sherman, The Collapse of Work (London: Eyre Methuen, 1979) D. Robertson and J. Wareham, 'Technological Change in the Auto Industry', CAW Technology Project, Draft (Willowdale, Ontario: CAW/TCA Canada, February 1987) T.R.Ide and A. Cordell, The new tools: implications for the future of work. Paper presented at an international meeting organized by Fundacion Sistema, Seville, Spain, September 17-19, 1992 (obtain from S. Lerner) ; R. Kuttner, 'The declining middle', Atlantiic Monthly , July 1986, pages 60-72; Hanna,op cit , note 2; K.S. Newman, Falling From Grace: the Experience of Downward Mobility in the American Middle Class (New York: The Free Press, 1988); P. Blumberg, Inequality in an Age of Decline (New York, Oxford University Press, 1980). K. S. Newman, Declining Fortunes: The Withering of the American Dream (New York: Basic Books, 1993); N. Kates,The Psychosocial Impact of Job Loss. (Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press, 1990); S.C. Miller, Unemployment: The Turning of the Tide?: a Bibliography on the Social and Economic Impacts of Unemployment (Letchworth, Herts.SG6 3RR, England: Technical Communications, 1989); S. Fineman, editor,Unemployment: Personal and Social Consequences (London: Tavistock Publication, 1987); S.Kirsch, Unemployment: Its Impact on Body and Soul (Ottawa: Canadian Mental Health Association, 1983) See, for example, D.W. Hornbeck and L.S. Salamon, editors, Human Capital and America's Future: An Economic Strategy for the Nineties (Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991). But see also, for a broader perspective on education, R.G. Brown, Schools of Thought: How the Politics of Literacy Shape Thinking in the Classroom (San Francisco:Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1991). D. W. Orr, Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to the Postmodern World (Albany, NY:State University of New York Press, 1992); S. C. Lerner, editor, Environmental Stewardship: Studies in Active Earthkeeping (Waterloo, Ontario: University of Waterloo, Geography Department Publication Series, 1993) See M. Renner, Jobs in a Sustainable Economy - Worldwatch Paper 104 (Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute, 1991) See note 9. See, for example, J. Robertson, Future Wealth: a New Economics for the 21st Century (London: Cassell Publishers Ltd., 1989); P. Ekins,The Living Economy (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986); Robertson, 1985, op cit, note 3. See, for example, F. Reid, 'Combating unemployment through work time reductions', Canadian Public Policy, 1986, 12, 2, pages 275-285; A. Gorz, Paths to Paradise: On the Liberation from Work (London: Pluto Press, 1985). Reid, ibid J. Vardy, op cit, note 5; C. Ansberry, op cit, note 5; L. Slotnick, 'Rules to curb overtime are widely flouted, Ontario Report Finds', Toronto Globe and Mail , June 25, 1987. J. B.Schor, The Overworked American: the Unexpected Decline of Leisure (New York: Basic Books, 1991); Slotnick, ibid; Reid, op cit, note 13; see also P.L.Wachtel, The Poverty of Affluence (New York: The Free Press, 1983) pages 243-260. P. Kerans, Welfare and Worker Participation: Eight Case Studies (New York:St. Martin's Press, 1988); G. MacLeod, New Age Business: Community Corporations That Work (Ottawa: Canadian Council on Social Development, 1986); D.V. Nightingale, Workplace Democacry (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982); F. R. Anton, Worker Participation: Prescription for Industrial Change (Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Detselig Enterprises, Ltd., 1980); G. Hunnius, G. D. Garson and J. Case, editors, Workers' Control: A Reader on Labor and Social Change (New York: Random House, 1973); C. Pateman, Participation and Democratic Theory (London: Cambridge University Press, 1970). Gill op cit, note 3; H. Braverman, Labour and Monopoly Capitalism (new York: Monthly Review Press, 1974. See, for example, P. Warr and T. Wall, Work and Well-Being (Hammondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1975) R. Morrison,We Build the Road as We Travel: Mondragon, a Cooperative Social System (Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers, 1991); C. Mungall, More Than Just a Job: Worker Cooperatives in Canada (Ottawa: Steel Rail Publishing, 1986; MacLeod, op cit, note 17. A useful beginning has been made with studies related to impacts of new technologies completed several years ago by and for labour unions and other stakeholder groups, with support from the Technology Impact Research Fund. [Labour Canada, Technology Impact Research Fund. Project Results (Ottawa: Labour Canada, mimeo, n.d.)] Gorz, op cit, note 13, pages 41 and 116, notes 3,4 ibid, page 47 Hanna, op cit, note 2 M. Wolfson, 'A guaranteed income', Policy Options , January 1986, page 36. P. Van Parijs, Arguing for Basic Income: Ethical Foundations for a Radical Reform (London: Verso Press, 1992) In Canada, the MacDonald Commission's proposed Universal Income Security Program (UISP) was the most recent model put forward for a GAI program. It drew both praise for keeping GAI on the agenda and thoughtful criticism (see D. P. Hum, 'UISP and the MacDonald Commission: reform and restraint', Canadian Public Policy, 1986, 12 (supplement), pages 92-100; J. R. Kesselman, 'The Royal Commission's proposals for income security reform', Canadian Public Policy, 1986, 12 (supplement), pages 101-112; Wolfson, ibid.28 D.P. Hum and W. Simpson, Income Maintenance, Work Effort and the Canadian Mincome Experiment (Ottawa: Economic Council of Canada, 1991); see also D.P. Hum and W. Simpson, 'Demogrant transfer in Canada and the Basic Income standard', Basic Income Group Bulletin , No. 15, July 1992, pages 9-11 (London: Citizens Income Study Centre); see also A. Sheahen, Guaranteed Income:The Right to Economic Security (Los Angeles, GAIN Publications, 1983); D.P. Moynihan, The Politics of a Guaranteed Annual Income (New York: Random House, 1973); R. Theobald, editor, Committed Spending: A Route to Economic Security (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1968). See, for example, J. C. Jacob, 'Searching for a sustainable future:experiences from the back-to-the-land movement, Futures Research Quarterly, Spring 1992, 8:1, pages 5-29. For a typical new approach to barter, see E. Cahn and J. Rowe, Time Dollars: The New Currency That Enables Americans To Turn Their Hidden Resource--Time--in Personal Secureity & Community Renewal (Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1992). For a discussion of 'backcasting' (planning for a desired future) versus attempting to predict the future, see J. B. Robinson, 'Unlearning and backcasting: rethinking some of the questions we ask about the future', Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 1988, 33, pages 325-338. Some contemporary analysts see the need for broad-based planning with respect to the emerging issues related to long-term structural unemployment, including the environmental implications and the need for new health care arrangements in the U.S. (P. L.Wachtel, 'Health care, jobs and the environment: unrecognized connections', The Human Economy Newsletter, 14(2) June 1993, pages 1,10-11; 'The environment - turning brown', The Economist, July 3, 1993, page 55). The effects on the position of women in the workforce are also beginning to attract attention. See, for example, F. Weir, 'Russia: the kitchen counterrevolution' (women forced out of paid employment), In These Times (Institute for Public Affairs, Chicago, Illinois), March 22, 1993, pages 22-24
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