It’s not just the crisis and it’s not just Europe: trend analysis of unemployment among youth worldwide speaks of a deeper change. And that’s just one of a number of symptoms that are beginning to alarm Institutions like the IMF, which highlights the growing percentage of temp work in developed countries.
Because if unemployment comes together with temp work, what we’re seeing is not temporary, it’s a process of dualization. Generational dualization: the children compensate, through salary reductions and temp contracts, the costs of firing the parents. Additionally, it’s sectoral dualization: services compensate through price for the inefficiencies of the surviving obsolete industries.
Result: jobs with higher qualifications and productivity become lower-paid than industrial jobs, overqualified children make less than their parents for the same work, the discontinuity in employment raises the retirement age, and the new home with adult children and even grandchildren, becomes the major investment of the family unit.
The hunger for home ownership is awakened and becomes an intergenerational cause: renting is dangerous when you can’t make long-term plans, so entry and part of the transition costs are borne by the parents. Mommy will fill the fridge with food in Tupperware on Mondays.
It has to do with the same causal thread that ties the industrial reconversion of the ’80s in Spain and Italy with the housing bubble of the ’90s and on. That’s why the professional and personal logjam of young college graduates in the US seems so familiar, so close to us. We lived it. And it brought us here.
And if we look at it from the point of view of businesses, the picture is completed. On the one hand, you have social expenses: workers negotiate their salaries for what they make, but what the business pays is almost a third more. It’s a classic bargaining model. On the other hand, signaling mechanisms are broken, university degrees don’t indicate people’s capacities, even they themselves don’t seem able to do it in many cases… and yet, ever more ITC businesses understand the necessity of of understanding interrelationships, and that their costliest move is hiring the wrong person. And it’s not even because of the severance pay, but, above all, because in a world with dissipation of rents, a step backwards means a lot in opportunity costs. And this is all the more true, the smaller your scale, because when “people” doesn’t mean a universalist and abstract aggregate reducible to statistics, but rather a group of real names, a real community, a person, the geometry of the conversation changes.
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Result: when you have a market that’s increasingly temporary, with people who are better-trained, and — as such, we assume — more versatile, but with higher transaction costs, businesses will necessarily appear who see a market for mediating and assuming part of these costs as a financial risk. In the ’90s, it was temp agencies. Today, it’s freelancer agencies.
Let’s be honest. For you, someone who’s not among the new “hijos d’algo” of globalization, for your whole generation, what’s coming is a horror. Socially and personally. And there’s no sense hoping “it will all just blow over.” Doing that, and deciding to “weather the storm” in hopes of better times, can only offer the worst of industrial life: being reduced to a piece in the process, absence of conversation, and underestimation of talent. And while, in the past, that could be compensated for with a certain fantasy of security, in the future, we foresee only temp work, lack of meaning, and absence of and sort of professional career.
And it’s no small thing that the new temp agencies are for freelancers. The job market is over. The future is small-scale and free-knowledge-intensive. It’s not a fantasy or a utopia: giants like Disney, General Electric, Top Office, and even the Chinese government are reorganizing and investigating to adapt their strategies and products while hundreds of SMEs in Asia struggle to stay one step ahead.
Are you going to keep looking for work, hoping for an opportunity from those who have shown themselves to be irresponsible? Take command. Look elsewhere. Put your head in a different place. Even if it’s not the most comfortable.
A place where capital and market mean very different things from what they meant in the old companies. At small scales, where scope is key, the word “person” is no longer a empty, generic abstraction in corporate-speak that can be reduced to statistics and results; people are names, peers, friends you don’t manage, but rather hold conversations with and build with from and for a different definition of security, and above all, of success.
Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)