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The changing concept of work and its relationship with marginal (age) groups

by on May 24, 2013

A couple of news stories have caught our eye recently that offer insight into the way in which ‘work’ is now being conceptualised. These stories are usually indicative of changes that happen over a period of time but which are instructive to reflect on.

One is the growth of the ‘work experience’ industry, for example, internships which are often a (contested) first step towards a job in a particular industry and which have primarily been targeted at school leavers, students and young graduates. This positions paid work as something which first requires (generally unpaid) experience. Access to such experience has been commodified and presented recently as a ‘prize’ as shown in the recent furore (as reported here) regarding Westminster School’s auction of work experience and internships

Another change, no doubt reflecting a labour market where jobs are not plentiful, is in the types of employment contract. We’ve blogged recently on the growth of zero hours contracts. In this article in The Independent, a 20 year old reveals what she says are the terms of her contract with RyanAir. These apparently include only being paid her for the hours that she was actually “in the air”. She says she was not paid for pre-flight briefings, turnaround time between flights, sales meetings and time on the ground due to delays and flight cancellations. So are these activities not ‘work’ any more?

What all these trends have in common is that they particularly disadvantage those groups with a more marginal relationship with the labour market which can include those in ‘younger’ and ‘older’ age groups.

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