2021.01.09 What is working?

Populations differ very much on what they think work is all about.

It can be no surprise to anybody moving to another country that the labor market is different from what they have been used to.

It has to be: each country writes its own laws. Also those governing labor.

But differences in how the labor market works is about way more than laws. It is just as much about attitude.

This can be concluded based on the Meaning of Work Studies. These are bodies of research where lots of people from different countries have been asked a number of questions about what work means to them.

And populations differ tremendously in how they see their work roles. In some countries "a way to make money" is overwhelmingly the primary reason to work. In other countries "a way to contribute to society" comes first. Some look at work from the collaborative and social perspective: "to get results together" or "to make friends". Some are more negative - it's called work for a reason you know...

So where do you see yourself among all these different attitudes?

No, you don't have to answer.

But it is a good exercise; not only considering how one feels about working but especially how one feels about the work one's employees do.

Are they made to feel that they contribute to society? Or should they be grateful that they get paid at all?

When you look at many labor practices (even in the supposedly left leaning California) like lack of rights to paid vacation; lack of parental leave; excessive use of contractors; arbitration clauses in employment contracts; rampant gender, age, and racial discrimination; discretely coerced non-paid overtime; on and on and on... it is obvious that hired hands are more often considered a necessary nuisance than full partners in the company/employee relationship.

It is not all because of evil company executives: When German auto manufacturers wanted to copy their labor relations system to their American plants, they were in no uncertain terms told to forget about it by the local politicians and employer associations. No Betribsrats here, please.

And this is where I can't help wonder how America got to this almost hostile attitude towards its work force?

After witnessing Trump-supporters invade Congress, Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, said: "This is what happens when we subordinate our moral principles for what we perceive to be business interests...It is ultimately bad for business and bad for society."

I believe Walker talked about how business leaders, by kowtowing to the president for four years regardless of his immoral antics, left him thinking that he could get away with anything, including sedition.

But Walker could just as well have been talking about how some American workers - for 50 years subjects to outsourcing, hostile takeovers, phony leveraged buy-out bankruptcies, automation, increasing inequality - became susceptible to a fascist demagogue.