Social Economy and Cities
Values and Competitiveness
for an Inclusive and Sustainable Local Development.
4. THE FUTURE OF WORK AND EMPLOYMENT: THE ROLE OF THE SE
Although trends such as demographic change, cultural diversity, the reconciliation of work and family life, changing work environments or the convergence of technologies are already quite clear developments, other disruptive events could transform the labour market in an unexpected way: reverse migration, changing values of employed staff or artificial intelligence and robots. According to estimates, 45%-60% of working people in Europe could be replaced by automation before 2030.
On the other hand, while some warn about the risks of technology, for other experts, this greater technological progress could lead to new job opportunities or even to a worldwide revival of creativity as long as people are freed from the need to work to live.
4.1. THE VALUE OF WORK IN SOCIETY
The financial crisis has become a social restructuring process that has devalued the value of work and citizens’ rights. Reversing this process requires trying out new formulas or enhancing existing alternatives.
People who are forced into self-employment look for an alternative to the extreme precariousness involved in being a dependent self-employed worker. They can be grouped in a work cooperative. Others, determined to create their own company, find a way to do this more in line with their values in the cooperative model. And, in addition, the Social Economy -cooperatives and public limited labour companies (SAL) – continues to be a way of restoring or perpetuating enterprises. The cooperative is also a way of gaining size without giving up the project of having their own company.
4.2. THE PRODUCTIVE/REPRODUCTIVE WORK BINOMIAL
As an economy becomes commodified and family income increases, an increasing part of reproductive work becomes paid work. Some reproductive tasks are transferred from the domestic sphere to the market, such as day-care centres, laundries or the sale of food on the street or in restaurants. Many of these services operate almost exclusively with women, but in this case their work is paid and statistically visible, at least when it is part of the formal sector. However, it is still “reproductive” work since it contributes to maintaining the labour force and social reproduction.
Reconciliation between work and family life, care, informalisation of paid work or equal opportunities are key issues related to the role of the Social Economy in the productive and reproductive work binomial.
4.3. IRRUPTION OF TECHNOLOGY AND DISAPPEARANCE OF JOBS
It is acknowledged that technological changes are a fundamental driver of growth and development. It is a dynamic process involving both the elimination and creation of jobs, and the transformation of existing ones (ILO, 2016). The “collaboration” economy or “virtual platform” economy, characterised by the exchange of goods and services between peers and tasks performed over virtual platforms or mobile applications, is distinguished by its participation and growth dynamics for the future of work ( De Stefano, 2016).
For some people, the platform economy represents an economic opportunity; however, there is increasing evidence that they create unregulated markets with atypical forms of employment, undermining employment relationships and increasing self-employment, leading to greater insecurity for workers, deterioration of employment conditions, and the suppression of social protection rights (ILO, 2016a). A possible response to the deterioration of the employment relationship characteristic of the platform economy is the creation of Social Economy enterprises, since they strengthen the workers’ voice and representation.
4.4. EDUCATION AND YOUNG PEOPLE, ENSURING THE FUTURE OF THE SE
In order to address the issue of youth employability in the future and reduce the growing disparity between labour supply and demand, continuous inclusive education is identified as an appropriate strategy. This solution could also help with the issue of the much-needed adaptability to a rapidly changing world of work in which individuals must change jobs and accept short-term jobs. In addition, it would be advisable for everyone to acquire interpersonal skills in communication and professional networking, and that these skills are not only acquired during higher education.
Among other alternatives, it is considered that vocational training and learning in the workplace can create better links in the transition to employment. The quality of the learning is very important, since it can determine the path to enter the labour market. Therefore, a training experience and not a normal job should be guaranteed.
4.5. SOCIAL-LABOUR INCLUSION AND SOCIAL ECONOMY
Integration companies and Special Employment Centres of social initiative are created as an instrument to fight poverty and social exclusion the first and for the improvement of the social and labour inclusion of people with disabilities the second ones. They are business initiatives combining business logic with job placement methodologies. These companies are not outside the economy’s conventional processes, since they produce goods and services, improve the environment, enhance services to people and foster quality of life, whilst being profitable and competitive. Besides assessing their economic profitability, it is very important to highlight the profitability in social aspects, since the beneficiaries cease to be passive and dependent and start to contribute to society everything that they had previously been denied.
Social Economy enterprises are characterised by a series of differential principles, among which we can highlight the enhancement of the human being and the generation of social value over economic and financial results. Thus, from equal opportunities and diversity, besides offering stable and quality employment, Social Economy enterprises can act as a way of standardising and disseminating the socio-labour integration of people at risk of exclusion and of people with disabilities.
4.6. BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION THROUGH THE SOCIAL ECONOMY
The economic, financial and identity crisis, with serious social, political and cultural consequences among broad sectors of society, especially young people, women and the population at risk of social exclusion, is an opportunity for companies in the Social Economy in general and cooperatives in particular to be the agents of transformation. Social entrepreneurship is one of the ways of generating employment and achieving an alternative socio-economic development model that incorporates and improves social welfare especially for men and women excluded from the labour market. It is found that the solidarity-focused business sector has become the means to guarantee, to a large part of society, opportunities and new alternatives leading to an improvement in the quality of life.
In addition to the traditional start-up processes of Social Economy enterprises by collective entrepreneurs (e.g. cooperative worker ownerships and labour companies, in which the majority of the capital is owned by the workers), cases of transforming companies in crisis or on the verge of closure, which before closure, decide to become cooperatives or labour companies to maintain employment and productive activity are becoming more and more relevant.