Valuable work, quality employment

When economic dynamics produce significant increases in the cost of living, agreements are knocked on the door to increase wages and thus maintain the purchasing power of the families who make a living from it. These updates – part of what we generically call quality employment – ​​are always presented with a great urgency, far greater than that of transforming current jobs into higher value jobs. The latter requires a medium-term vision and very coordinated work by the various players, and cannot be improvised. A quality job is possible if the work has a certain value and is part of a sustained process of improvement in this respect. But we know that our economy produces goods and services of low or medium value, and this is where the difficulties in moving towards quality jobs lie.

Valuable work is work that, for each hour or week of work, produces a result that has a high or very high value recognized in the market. Valuable work obviously moves away from repetitive tasks in which automation is gaining ground and displacing the person’s work. Digitalization, advancing on many fronts at the same time, is eliminating low-value jobs, replacing them with machine-solved digitized services. On the contrary, valuable jobs are linked to the use of certain specialized knowledge in problem solving. Work of value is therefore related to the practical application of knowledge, skills in handling certain technologies and solving problems that are important to someone who is willing to pay for it. It is also a valuable work that uses the knowledge of different cooperation specialists to solve current or emerging problems, just like research and its development in the form of technology. And finally, it is a work of value that applies to advice on specific questions of technological, economic, environmental, health, administrative or social life.

Just as the quality of employment is linked to working conditions, what is received for the work provided, its value, is expressly linked to the use of its results. Undoubtedly, the two questions are different, but they are closely related. What connects them is the conjunction of the professional capacity of the worker, the technical means with which he works, the organization of the work teams, the efficiency of the processes and projects in progress, and above all the motivations individual and team. And if all of that doesn’t make the value far outweigh the cost – including wages – the business will soon close. Without a sustained increase in the value of work or in the number of the most valued jobs in society, it cannot be expected that quality jobs will emerge quickly and that there will be enough consensus to raise the level of wages and improve working conditions. , as anyone would expect from an evolving employment system.

Technology presents us with two faces: on the one hand, it destroys simple and not so simple jobs, and on the other hand, it allows us to reduce the cost of labor by automating many current processes. But more importantly than the above, technology is used to create value by solving bigger problems for customers. For example, in the healthcare world, face-to-face digitization is the right way to use technology to gain value, not replace face-to-face processes with value-losing digital ones. In the world of education, personalizing the content of tasks and readings for students increases the value that digital technology enables. Viewing a pre-recorded lesson does not add value, but prevents the valuable request and response interaction between student and teacher. This is why simply digitizing – which is already happening – can increase productivity, which translates into less expense, but it is not a guarantee of having more and better jobs. Nor is it important to have a large proportion of college graduates working in low-value jobs. Productivity and value are two radically different things. Technology brings productivity by reducing costs, and the knowledge and attitude of teamwork adds value to the customer.

Nor is the increase in value a question of changing sectors, which is impossible overnight, or of artificially increasing jobs in a public or private sector in economic growth. We talk a lot about innovation and this is where valuable jobs thrive, opening up new activities with growth potential or jobs that are much more productive in problem solving. It is only in these circumstances that jobs can improve their economic and working conditions. For this reason, it is not so much about identifying areas where higher value work is more important, but about bringing more value into any business, process and business. To do this, you have to change your mentality and stop thinking that “doing business means selling high, buying low and paying little”, to adopt another attitude; “Doing business is about converting individual and collective knowledge and attitudes into solutions to problems worth solving in order to simultaneously improve customer conditions and job quality.”

Often the data is misleading when we measure the number of new contracts or the number of unemployed. A fundamental piece of information that may replace them in the future is the number and level of value provided by existing jobs at any given time and in each sector. It is not the same to increase the number of waiters in the hotel industry as to increase the number of people in the R&D units of certain companies in the food sector or to integrate the distribution and preservation of food cooked at home for people with reduced mobility. . They can all be grouped together in the new jobs in the food sector, but the consequences of one situation or another differ greatly in terms of the job, its value and its future. The three actions are not incompatible at all. The second and third options pave the way for new jobs in other sectors, that is, jobs that will generate more rewarding jobs.

When we say that investments generate jobs, we need to be more specific. Investing in public or private infrastructure creates jobs to build or maintain later, but investing in knowledge jobs generates more value and more jobs in many other sectors, new products, solutions and services with the possibility of a significant increase in the quality of employment in its three aspects: economic, training and employability.

A quality job is one that meets conditions such as stability, good working hours, good personal treatment, average or high salaries and possible promotion in the professional career that guarantees a certain employability. And that happens when what is produced per unit of time worked is worth more and more. Until we understand that applied knowledge is the source of the solutions and the value of work, we will not advance in the possibility that the conditions or the quality of employment thrive above the up-and-down. comes from the economy and its prices.

We do not understand that changing this is only the work of the entrepreneurial fabric – alone –, but we believe that it is above all a question of the culture of society, training organizations and public institutions, so that they promote the development of knowledge applied to companies and their customers. We know that long-term initiatives are needed to increase the number of scientists and technologists with demanding and solvent professional careers. It is necessary to make in-company training a continuous and evolving system to guarantee the application of new knowledge and technologies in the trades, both technical and managerial. By caring for and increasing the value of work, we will be able to sustainably and simultaneously increase and improve profits and what we mean by quality jobs.

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