Future of Work: The new bundle is being invented as we speak
And it gives me some hope for the future
In the twentieth century, the dominant work model was that of the Fordist “bundle”. In exchange for division of labour and subordination, each worker was offered a bundle of benefits: a steady revenue, health insurance, paid holidays, a retirement pension, access to banking credit and housing, the promise of better future earnings thanks to the bargaining power of influential unions, a social and political identity, a set of connections, and more. The bundle made the alienation of industrial jobs quite acceptable. It gave workers dignity, economic security and a sense of agency.
But for roughly four decades now we’ve been experiencing a global unbundling of jobs. Globalisation, deindustrialisation, the decline of unions, the financialisation of the economy and the digital revolution have all played a role. Economic security is on the decline. Workers are now offered a deal that involves accepting subordination and alienation without the old tradeoff. The result is bad jobs, insufficient hours and revenues, no access to housing, job hopping, no sense of agency, isolation, and a lack of bargaining power.
In many ways the traditional bundle was a collective one. Thus the unbundling leaves today’s workers with the task of creating a personalised bundle of their own, of finding unique ways to combine the different elements of the bundle to fit their needs and situation. What was collective becomes individual. As Charles Leadbeater said, “the bundle has become a backpack”.
For the mobile “hunters” of the creative classes, the unbundling is a great opportunity to leave the “bullshit jobs” of large corporations behind. For everyone else, however, the lack of collective solutions translates to increased isolation, weakness and poverty.
But there’s hope. The unbundling of jobs is being tackled by startups, cooperatives and associations striving to help workers reinvent a better bundle. Together they offer collective alternatives to what’s become an individual problem.
Yesterday I took part in a panel at the RSA Future of Work Centre regarding the “economic security impact accelerator 2019”. In partnership with MasterCard’s Center for Inclusive Growth, the programme consists in “supporting a cohort of changemakers who are looking to have a greater impact on good work, inclusive growth and the overall economic security of the UK’s workers”.
Together, these entrepreneurs address the holes in today’s system and offer new collective solutions:
To put housing back into the new bundle
- ProxyAddress uses existing records of empty properties to create a “proxy” address for the homeless that can be used to access all the services only provided to those with an address. Indeed, “an address is no longer just a location, it’s now a de facto means of identification”.
- Rochdale New Pioneers Programme is a tenant and employee co-owned housing society of 13,000 homes. It offers a sense of security and belonging to the residents of one of the UK’s most deprived areas. Where and how you live matters: economic security depends on your local community.
- ACH provides resettlement and integration services for refugee and newly arrived communities in the UK. It started as a small-scale housing provider in inner-city Bristol. Now it helps 2,500 people a year in the West of England.
To offer insurance and agency to freelancers and temp workers
- Dinghy offers on-demand professional indemnity insurance to freelance professionals and gig economy workers who can thus “flex their coverage” to fit their needs. They can save money but remain covered when they are between projects.
- Earwig is a reviews platform for construction workers on temporary contracts. It gives workers detailed (peer-to-peer) information about recruiters and workplaces so workers can feel more secure when choosing jobs.
- Trezeo “turns unpredictable income into a regular pay cheque”. It offers income smoothing accounts to people who rely on gig-based work. It tops-up income during quiet periods and helps build savings during more intense periods.
- IndyCube is a cooperative that offers the self-employed a “suite of benefits” so they can feel less isolated, get supported with legal cover, late payments and accountancy tools “to make their businesses less precarious”.
To help the unemployed and the underemployed find work
- Labour xchange is a platform where the underemployed (notably in the retail industry) can register their upcoming availability to work on an hour by hour basis. Local businesses can then fill their staffing requirements with the free time of these individuals. Thus workers get more work hours and revenues.
- Turnaround aims to help “turn around” the futures of people serving sentences in prison or in the community. It means involving the wider community, providing a supportive environment and offering transitional training and employment opportunities.
- Bob Emploi is an AI powered employment advisor. It’s a free online platform designed to help jobseekers improve their employability. It gives their personalised advice to help them find the next steps forward.
To help workers train for other jobs and leverage the power of their data
- Enrol Yourself hosts local peer groups that support people transitioning to new careers by “building their personal and professional resilience over 6 months”. “Participants set their own learning question that they pursue as a part of a mutually supporting cohort”.
- Workerbird “helps workers collect what they deserve by understanding and improving their working conditions.” Workers track their own data and get insights into their working patterns. They get information to help them understand what their next steps can be.
By the way the unbundling / rebundling of jobs is the subject of my new book, published in France under the title Du Labeur à l’ouvrage (Calmann-Levy, 2019).
A few more articles on related subjects: