Wspólnotowy Serwis Informacyjny Badan i Rozwoju - CORDIS

Information society, work, and the generation of new forms of social exclusion: General strategies to combat social exclusion in the information economy

Active labour market policy, including measures such as further training, wage subsidies or the creation of employment outside the labour market, is often seen as too limited for combating social exclusion. To fundamentally approach the problem of social exclusion, more acting in solidarity is needed. This is not meant in the sense of guaranteeing material security, but in the sense of re-establishing bonds between the excluded people and society.

The sharing of work is seen as the key approach towards re-establishing solidarity. But it is still highly controversial whether the general reduction of working hours can have a significant impact on employment. It is more often seen as an instrument for stabilising rather than increasing employment. Promoting part-time work is also discussed as a strategy for sharing work among a larger number of people. As part-time work is often applied to less-skilled jobs, it may help to reduce the employment problem for less-skilled people caused by the shift in skill demands. Furthermore, the establishment of more flexible transitions from employment to other social spheres, such as education, leisure, family, community and retirement, is also seen as a promising approach to dividing existing jobs among more people. The idea of such an approach is that if people have a real choice between different activities without a risk of losing their jobs, the supply of labour will be reduced and more people can be employed.

Dividing the existing working hours among more people is sometimes seen as a defensive strategy to deal with the problem of social exclusion, as low demand for labour is taken for granted. The problem is that of restoring strong economic growth conducive to massive job creation. The need for applying an innovation-oriented growth policy is increasingly stressed in order to combat social exclusion. It is important to note, however, that the relationship between innovation and employment is extremely complex; no direct relationship between these two economic variables exists. Particularly product and process innovations may have partly contradictory employment effects. In the case of process innovations, effects on the employment level in general are much less benign than in the case of companies developing new products or services.

Can the introduction of decentralised, ICT-based production structures be seen as a measure to combat social exclusion or to promote social inclusion? According to the results of our company survey, while traditional companies without major organisational changes and low ICT use have mostly kept their workforce stable, those companies that have introduced technical and/or organisational changes have varied their workforce more often by both reducing and increasing it. It seems that particularly those companies that fundamentally restructure their production process to strengthen their innovativeness are the biggest job creators. Such companies derive competitiveness from the virtuous circle, which builds more explicitly on exploiting the flexibility and creativity of their workforce. It is important that governments support those innovative companies that aim at strengthening competitiveness through restructuring processes but rely on a highly educated workforce at the same time.

Reported by

University of Tampere
4 Tullikatu 6
33014 Tampere
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