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Thoughts on the modern workplace – we should all be grateful!


The Guardian yesterday had a lovely story urging workers of the world to stop moaning about their stressful, time-consuming lives, and arguing that 100 years ago things were far, far worse! Quite frankly, we'd have to agree with them on the evidence given!

Taking six popularly-held beliefs about today's workplace, Evan Davis dispels any arguments that things are getting tougher and harder for those on the work treadmill as follows:

  • There's no job security. The idea that we have lost the concept of a job for life is a myth, says Davis. People have always done different jobs for different employers, and the length of time people remain in jobs is pretty stuck at 3-5 years.

  • Lads get left behind. No, says Davis, we've always been concerned about unskilled young men - before the First World War, the "boy worker problem" saw boys leaving school at 14 with few, if any, qualifications to drift into jobs as messenger boys.

  • Stress levels are rising. Get real, says Davis, people used to have to stick with whatever work they could get during the Depression, and God help you if you didn't put up with any sort of harassment that came your way.

  • We're all working harder. Hardly, as at the turn of the century, 13 and 14-year-olds would be pressed into service until the age of 65 or older. Indeed, the number of hours worked has been decreasing steadily to an average of 37 hours a week from around 54 before the Second World War.

  • Modern jobs? McJobs! We may bemoan the increase in service-related jobs, but in reality, they've been there all along, with the 'Upstairs Downstairs' world of domestic service.

  • Home-working is here. Davis says that to suggest that technology is responsible for an increase in working from home is a mistake, as for years, anything from fur-pulling to rug-making was carried out by women in the home.

Concluding his piece, Davis says that few trends in the labour market are actually new, and says that if we're worried about the changes in the workplace, we should listen to US economist Paul Krugman, who says that the jobs that flourish in the future will be the ones information technology can't replace.

Evan Davis is presenting Tinker,Tailor,Teleworker, a three-part series commenting on the changing face of work on Radio 4 starting on Thursday 17 August at 8pm.


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