Professor of Sociology
to Vassilis Taktikos in the context of the research of the Institute of Social Economy Studies
on the future of paid work.
Andreas N. Lytras was born in Ioannina. He is a Professor of Sociology, he has been teaching since 1990 at the Department of Sociology of Panteion University. He has been the director of the National Labor Institute, the director of the National School of Public Administration and the director of the GNA “Korgialenio – Benakeio, EES”. His books have been included in libraries of foreign universities. In addition, he has prepared and published articles, participations in collective projects and announcements in conferences.
As the Institute for the Study of Social Economy, we sought his scientific opinion on issues related to the future of paid work in relation to the effects of new technologies on production and entrepreneurship.
1. What is the future of paid employment in relation to new technologies and the labor supply. Will the demand from the state and the market be sufficient in the near future or are we objectively on a declining path and should other forms of work be sought?
IF. Lytras: The short and safe answer will be more like the opinions of the soothsayer Calchas, than a valid scientific approach. So I choose a more complex, but also as coherent assessment as possible. 1) From a theoretical point of view, as strange as this may seem, there is an absolute agreement between classical political economy (liberalism) and classical Marxism (with opposite evaluations, in relation to the qualities of wage labor), regarding the great utility of the wage earner. labor in capitalism, as the only source of capitalist profit. Therefore, as long as capitalism survives and develops, there is the greatest need for the existence of wage labor, that is, wage labor. In addition, in order to achieve higher growth rates both annually and over long periods of time, a continuous increase in the number and proportion of employees is required. 2) These theoretical estimates and strategies, which also sound like forecasts, are fully confirmed by the trends in the quantitative data of wage labor over long periods, but in recent times, despite the cyclical spasms of different proportional behavior. This finding is absolutely true in the most advanced countries, where the proportion of employees is close to or above 90% of employment. It also applies, with some variations, to countries that are rapidly modernizing and competing with each other in reducing other employment regimes and expanding the percentage of employees. New groups of employees, under pressure from fierce competition, are increasingly embracing flexible working conditions, and in particular cheaper part-time work. 3) Recent developments in the organization of work have brought to the fore a new phenomenon. Very innovative and profitable companies use employees, who look like self-employed, often remotely from their headquarters and organized in self-managed workgroups or parallel networks, facilitated by information and communication technology. 4) Capitalist countries need, in order to achieve ever higher rates of growth and greater mass of national wealth, new growing manpower. However, having reached the top levels of integration of the able and available for work (80-90%), this perspective seems impossible in conventional terms.
The alternatives are practically two: either the integration of new immigrants in the developed sectors or the invention of new objects and sectors of economic activity (or even the utilization of known, but at the moment marginal production objects). The very economic need, which gave birth to the demand for productive expansion, creates the possibility for the expansion of profits, by reducing the expenses of entrepreneurs (usually tax, several times with the help of the “advertising aid” of the brand names of the companies. ).
This outpouring of private entrepreneurial efforts to make a profit either by adding new revenue (classic speculation) or by deducting expenses (inventing tax relief by financing the social economy) broadens our expectations for consolidation. social sector, as the strong complementary economic sector, next to the market and the state. This opportunity is at the same time an opportunity for our societies, for more concern for the great social problems that have remained unresolved (ecology, inequalities, poverty, social exclusion, marginalization), for an alternative production framework, with social innovations and useful economic initiatives. , and for a larger number of workers who have been released from wage labor.
2. In the European area we belong to, GDP in the primary and secondary sectors is around 20% and employment in these sectors around 22%. If we include in the material production the constructions and the transports, the percentage possibly rises close to 30%. If we take into account that employment is around 15% is employment in the public sector and this estimate is correct, then a percentage of 50% -60% must be covered by trade – services – tourism. With this data, how possible is it to have a job offer for everyone, when material production and the real economy are constantly shrinking?
IF. Redeemer: The data you are referring to is very close to reality, as shown in the following two diagrams. It is one of the peculiarities of capitalism that the only real and material result it values is profit, both as a mass and as a ratio in relation to invested capital. It is even pointed out that in this way services are the most efficient production sector of the modern era in developed countries. The same sector accounts for the huge number of employees. The “incredibly” high proportion of employees and especially employees certainly creates impressions. The material intervention of the employees in the services is to convert the international transactions (banking, wholesale trade, transport, storage, insurance of persons and goods, export of tourist services consumed within the country, money trade) and their ancillary to the national transactions ( food, retail, real estate and wheeled rentals, etc.) in business profits. Symbolically, the profits of developed countries are produced by the unequal and asymmetric economic relations, which they systematically develop with the less developed countries. Quite schematically, those goods produced cheaper in the poorer countries are sold (in a complex balance sheet) more expensive in the rich countries. Human labor, and in particular wage labor, contributes decisively to the realization of the essential substance of the economy, namely the profits of enterprises. This is exactly why there is a frenzy for the well-known “extroversion” of employees. Employees themselves benefit from some of the dimensions of these relationships. They work in less strenuous work. They expect higher incomes from workers in poor countries. They can buy more and relatively cheaper goods than if they produced them themselves. But one fact is indisputable: entrepreneurs in this relationship expect huge profits, both in mass and in proportions on their capital. Nothing metaphysical exists in this state. It simply lacks any creativity in relation to material production. But there are more inventions. Some of them, of course, plunged the world economy into chaos. We are still waiting for some to repent for their financial choices. They expect something else: “business as usual” and for-profit “come back”.
3. How sustainable can an economy with deficits and public debt be when the state spends a high percentage of GDP 40% -45% and employs a percentage of the workforce around 15%. Does state intervention in this case reduce or increase inequalities?
IF. Lytras: The great state or otherwise the welfare state is a historical creation of the major crisis of capitalism (1929-30). The formation of vast public structures and the extremely high employment in the State accompany the extensive and hitherto unknown dimensions of social rights (free education, health systems, public social security and retirement schemes in Europe, social housing benefits, maternity and child protection) . The formation of the great state is the result of the substantial collapse of capitalism and a means of its renewal; and it was indeed renewed. This model of state was gradually reduced, under the influence of more conservative political forces (neoliberalism) and the inspiration for the new version of neoclassical economic theory. The tools of this market’s disease treatment, however, have also been used recently by the US and Japan. What did they do; They increased their already large public debt (in Japan to 245% and in the US to about 114% of GDP) and their state budget deficit, in order to face the crisis of 2007-8. They thus curbed unemployment and then reduced it to very tolerable levels for the population. In Europe they did the opposite: they chose austerity and cut public spending. The result was an explosive increase in unemployment in Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy, etc. So, everything is a matter of choices and goals. The extended state certainly has great costs that burden the taxation and mainly imposes the heavy commission in every dimension of the daily action, but also of the whole life of the citizens. It is a mechanism of domination and this seems rough in any case. The latest findings are a useful bridge to comment on the second part of the question. The modern state portrays the largest employer and the largest consumer. When the public makes tenders and procurements or does public works it transfers the public money to the entrepreneurs and thus they create high profits. If we consider that in modern societies the working class is represented mainly (the vast majority), the self-employed or even small employers and large business owners (the small minority), then the state acts in the following way: by the large mass of employees collects mainly indirect taxes, from the middle incomes collects indirect and direct taxes and from the owners of large enterprises collects mainly taxes from the income, but at the same time transfers to them the major part of the public expenditures (what is left from the payment of salaries and other liabilities). Obviously the social inequalities in these processes are widening further. At the same time, we must think that without any other alternative, the state offers the least favored the minimum and at least acceptable standard of living. The older charity produced little in its general history, but quite a lot of ugliness and hypocrisy. In any case, the main economic protests against the extended state come from middle-income people. Their institutions consider that they give a lot and receive almost nothing. The large mass of employees are always complaining about the lower level of quality of services, compared to what they should enjoy. Successful owners of large corporations, while earning excellent returns from the State, often make ironic criticisms of the state’s entanglements and malfunctions. It is the brilliant synthesis of the opposition to costs (middle incomes), the unsatisfied tolerance of the present or impending decomposition (the large mass of employees) and the very clear expectation of entrepreneurs to receive Public structures and functions for free or very cheaply. Unless something else happens: the development of social and solidarity economy initiatives by the collective bodies of civil society. These initiatives will limit the state, without limiting the social benefits. This choice, however, requires a structured subject, a defined and politically exploitable strategy, a correlation of social forces and effective alliances. Until then, Hayek and Friedman supporters and the more conservative (neo-liberal) politicians will feast on social inaction and rely on state benefits.
4. What percentage of the concentrated energy sector occupies GDP and what percentage of employment?
IF. Lytras: According to the data I have already cited, the energy production sector is a fraction of general industrial production (secondary), along with mining, processing (the classic industry) and construction (either public and private infrastructure or housing, and stores etc). Depending on the national economy we are examining and its peculiarities (existence or absence of natural resources) the ratio is rather low. A larger proportion is observed in the so-called oil-producing countries, which, however, are less developed and are characterized by the so-called “unilateral” economic growth. The employment ratio is at similar levels to the distribution of GDP. Convulsions of the most significant differences are found in times of industrial change. For example, during the coal abandonment period there were large fluctuations in both the contribution of the energy sectors to GDP and employment. However, you are right that the energy sector has a high concentration of companies and employment with single employers.
5. What are the margins for the development of intangible services and employment in these services, when new technologies have been proven to reduce employment in financial exchanges and sales through the electronization and automation of processes (e-shop, e-banking, etc.). λ.π.);
IF. Lytras: It is extremely difficult to make safe predictions about both the type of new investments, along with the automation that entails, and the size or type of employment in the business cutting edge sectors. All previous experiences provide us with the reliable indication that investments in innovative sectors and automation so far have increased and not reduced employment in the national economies presented. There was, of course, an in-line evolution. Innovative investments and automation are demanding in capital ventures. The extra money comes from the cyclical restriction (either in a company or in an entire industry) of employees (and therefore of the corresponding wage burden). The trend towards redundancies is creating a new mass of unemployed people who are gradually reducing their financial demands, either out of fear for the future (highlighted by the unpredictable predictions of their direct replacement by automatic systems) or by the deprivations of their situation. unemployment or even from the existing “plague of hunger” in order to return to employment and earn an income. What is difficult for the average person to realize is the fact that labor itself is an equivalent commodity, like all other commodities, and its price fluctuates during the trading process. When the price of labor is estimated to be advantageous, it mobilizes, either independently or in combination with existing investments, the interest of entrepreneurs. This means that either innovative companies will absorb equivalent or more human resources, compared to what they fired, at a much lower wage cost, or new businesses will be created and invest in the very low and therefore cost-effective cost of goods: “human work”. A typical example is given by P. Glotz (P. Glotz: Manifesto for the New European Left). In the US at the time of the dynamic IT market, IBM created tens of thousands of new jobs (minimal for the national economy), but a new investment (in Pizza production) in the food industry, using the innovative method of “home delivery” employed many, many tens of thousands of new employees. Only the latter were low paid and with minimal coverage. They would not be available for this employment and pay if the effect of modernization and, among them, automation had not been mediated. “More, but much cheaper, employees” is the message that previous technology experiences send us. As long as commodity relations in the market are inspired by the same trading rules, it seems that the same or something similar will happen. If these relationships are somehow overcome and some future conjuncture then of course a lot will change. What exactly; No one can know and whoever does, just risks confusing the prediction with the random result of the dice game. In conclusion, new, albeit marginally more, intangible s Labor costs in these conditions will be subdued, in order to increase profits. This is the well-known equation of technological achievements!
6. What can be done with the surplus human resources under these conditions when in the field of knowledge and education the mediation of the concentration of large companies and organizations is reduced? More specifically when internet services increase self-service, self-education, self-employment.
IF. Lytras: In market economies, there has always been a parallel with employment and “surplus” human resources. In the age of handicrafts, it was the unskilled workers who, as landless people, had minimal possibilities to join the production units, which are critical for the economy. These included women with no income and a number of children (quite orphaned). The Industrial Revolution made the former skilled workers “surplus” and included the unskilled, women and children, in unprecedented masses and with minimum wages in employment. The second Industrial Revolution expanded the masses of the unskilled in a leading way and added a number of specialists in administration and organization to scientifically direct the former and manage the process. The third Industrial Revolution (which we are still experiencing) removed the skilled executives of the process and consolidated the work, through simplification, performed by large masses of workers either in services or in industry. In order for the project to be successful, the employees had to have a certain level of general education and many periodic qualification renewals, in order to be able to continue working. Here are some opportunities to improve the average level of human resources and to take advantage of opportunities since they are not just tools for employment. This relative “surplus” of individuals’ cognitive ability could be a usable social “size”. It does, however, require collective effort and a lot of innovation. Until then, the trying “surplus” will compete with each other to obtain many certified qualifications, which will be available flexibly and usually cheaper to their prospective employers. This will be done as long as they think they are “surplus”. Prospective employers are waiting for them, as they are flexibly available for their hard and efficient, daily or periodic work and their minimum requirements. But since they believe that they are redundant… .., then let us expand their imagination and fears. It is useful and efficient.ervices can be created and more employment can be observed in the future.
7. If we accept that the internet increases employment opportunities, is it done through paid work or through self-employment and collaboration?
IF. Lytras: It is true that in our time there have been two major developments in the organization of labor and production. In both I have already been placed exactly. I will comment on the issues that concern them most systematically: a) In the organization of work stands out the formation and structural enforcement of “working groups”, which usually have expanded self-action or are self-managed, without other managers (except some coordinators or project evaluators) teams to intervene in their roles. The operation of the “working groups” goes beyond the previous excavations of the bureaucratic hierarchy, the “segmentation” and the great specialization of the conditions of integration, but also the division of the necessary projects. Inside, employees with different working regimes are integrated. Full-time and part-time employees, other employees with flexible working arrangements, employees who are typically dependent on other employers (so-called “borrowers”), employees who work on a voluntary basis through other companies that are typically service providers, self-employed (self-employed) property) and new type of self-employed workers (eg teleworkers). The phenomenon exists in both the classic industry and the services (insurance, banking, transport, financial services, communications, companies producing and maintaining electronic programs, e-commerce, etc.). In essence, pioneering and highly competitive companies are giving up much of their management experience (as an extremely cost-effective) and keeping as much of a profit as possible. These findings mean that there is much more room for non-dependent employees (already to some extent in Britain and the Netherlands) to participate and are typically self-employed. At the same time, the possibility can be foretold for all those who are currently employed to appear in the near future as independent professionals. There are currently no technical, formal or substantive obstacles. The road is open. One last challenge remains: to take advantage of collective collaboration, despite labor independence.
b) The reduction of the size of public structures and the reduction of welfare state benefits has expanded the inescapable need for the development of cooperation and every dimension of the cooperative idea, the social and solidarity economy in the whole range of economic activities. The intensity of poverty that now coexists with active employment, the deafening noises from the explosive spasms of unemployment, the great ecological disturbances and the multiple social impasses that give rise to anxiety and multidimensional exclusions require the organized, democratic and social activism of citizens, to take advantage of the opportunities of the collaborative idea and to introduce an alternative (non-profit sector) to the market and the state. Beyond the state (ie the blatant exercise of the legal right to power) and excessive speculation (the market and for-profit companies) it is possible to have an efficient economic space, which is innovative, valid, timely, with a decent individual income of the members of cooperation, but without speculation. And employment is easy to expand and working conditions can be better and the creativity of producers can be favored (even in material production) and the overall cost of consumption can become more reasonable and, of course, exceed its standard. dependent employment in an unquestionably innovative field of wealth formation. We just have to point out a contradiction that as a challenge must be overcome by the social economy. The members of the cooperatives and the cooperative organizations in general are essentially self-employed. However, when the members themselves or other associates get a paid job in the partnership, they appear as dependent employees as a whole. It is an absolute debt to overcome the fossils of wage labor in the pioneering social economy. The opposite would mean that: the slave would choose his slavery as a means to be set free. Is it possible?
8. Why, while we see everywhere that the state and the market can not cover full employment for all, yet few scientists are researching the possibilities of the third sector?
IF. Lytras: I do not agree that there are not enough and important efforts. It is true that they do not often see the limelight and their findings and findings are rarely displayed. They are certainly not sufficient in numbers and managements to pose and solve on their own the problems of approaching the issue, the prospects and the strategic issues that will aid the development of the third sector. Usually in the social sciences the view is expressed that: a social issue exists when the social subject that concerns it raises in a strong and resounding way a specific claim or a framework of claims. In the agricultural issue, the landless peasants claimed with incredible sacrifices the possession or ownership of the land. Think about it: how loud has a collective social subject raised the demand for a strengthened and autonomous cooperative economy? On the contrary, some intellectuals and some pioneers of the cooperative idea (to whom you undoubtedly belong) are the ones who keep the demand alive, but not strong enough to be projected as an insurmountable social need and as a capital social cause. Until then, the vast majority of intellectuals and researchers will do what they can to understand each situation, and some will investigate what is adequately funded at specific historical moments. There are always others. Probably the speaker considers that he belongs to them, the others.