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Changes in occupations in the knowledge-based economy Selected results from the European project WORKS Dr Gérard Valenduc FTU - Fondation Travail-Université.

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Presentation on theme: "Changes in occupations in the knowledge-based economy Selected results from the European project WORKS Dr Gérard Valenduc FTU - Fondation Travail-Université."— Presentation transcript:

1 Changes in occupations in the knowledge-based economy Selected results from the European project WORKS Dr Gérard Valenduc FTU - Fondation Travail-Université (Namur) Invited professor at FUNDP Namur and UCL Louvain-la-Neuve ETUI monthly forum Brussels, 24 June 2010 Work Organisation and Restructuring in the Knowledge Society FP6 integrated project, funded by the European Commission

2 Contents Methodology Selected occupational groups: knowledge-based creative occupations and customer service occupations Evolution of job contents and skills mix Diversification of career patterns Changes in identities at work Challenges for (long-term) work life balance Conclusions

3 Objectives and methodology Methodology for occupational case studies In-depth interviews concerning the individual experience of organisational and occupational changes, including a biographical dimension Focus on: career construction and choices; occupational identities; quality of work; learning and skills development; work life balance Reporting process (15 countries): 246 interviews  30 case study reports  6 monographs of occupational groups (dress designers, ICT researchers, software professionals, manufacturing workers, logistics commercial workers, front-office employees in public or former public services)  comparative analysis

4 Occupational groups concerned by this paper Knowledge-based creative occupations 3 occupational groups: dress designers + ICT researchers + software professionals 113 interviews, 14 case study reports, 11 countries Main forms of restructuring: global markets, mergers, commoditisation of knowledge, new division of labour, speeding-up processes along the value chain Customer service occupations 1 occupational group: front office employees in public services (administration, post or railway) 57 interviews, 7 case study reports, 7 countries Main forms of restructuring: outsourcing, market dependency, priority to customer orientation, privatisation or "subsidiarisation" or externalisation of former internal resources

5 Evolution of job contents and skills mix Trends in KB occupations Job contents transformed by speeding-up processes and increasing tensions between creativity and market pressure Broadening of the skills portfolio beyond the core professional skills Internal dynamics of the profession is perceived as more determinant than "external" restructuring processes "Competence-based" labour market (dress designers and software professionals) versus "professional" labour market (researchers) Trends in CS occupations Wide variety in educational and training background, often not directly linked to the occupation. Service relationship as main common component of the skills mix Job contents linked to a role in an organisation

6 Diversification of career patterns Trends in KB occupations: organisational vs boundaryless Diversification of organisational careers: hierarchical patterns, technical patterns (expertise), multi-organisational patterns. Persistence of glass ceiling for women. Boundaryless (or nomadic) careers: trapped in a core / periphery model ? Fragmented careers, due to chronic flexibility (constrained choices) Trends in CS occupations Increasing segmentation between organisational careers and fragmented careers (mainly in outsourced CS) Rigid career models (back-office model) challenged by fewer-levels career paths (front-office model) and "sideways" mobility Gendered representation of "service work" (entailing feminisation of some male occupations)

7 Changes in identities at work Trends in KB occupations Involvement in work and learning = keys of occupational identities. Changing role of technology in identity and growing importance of the quality of human relationships at work (in small groups) Predominance of the "professional" and "entrepreneurial" models of identity formation Trends in CS occupations Organisational identities > occupational identities Service work itself does not yet define an occupational identity, although this trend is now emerging (model of service professional vs statutory model) No occupational group presents a single model of identity at work

8 Challenges for (long-term) work life balance Trends in KB occupations Work plays a central part in life (sometimes a structuring part). Expressive relation to work. High level of satisfaction, despite regrets and critiques regarding recent trends. Work "too demanding" => unequal share of family commitments and/or renunciations Doubts about the long-term sustainability of this occupational model Trends in CS occupations Instrumental > expressive relation to work Feeling of insecurity regarding the long term ("not anymore a job for life") perceived as more important than increasing workload Regulatory provisions favourable for WL balance (mainly for women) are weakening through restructuring

9 Conclusions Comparison between KB and CS occupations Several "parallel" changes (different paths in the same direction) Similar driving forces have different effects on KB and CS jobs Strong occupational identities (KB) versus weak occupational identities (CS) Strong occupational identities help to cope with restructuring "Knowledge" and "service" are relevant key words

10 References to WORKS research reports Valenduc G., Vendramin P., Krings B.-J., Nierling L., Occupational case studies - Synthesis report and comparative analysis, WORKS Report D11 (2007) Valenduc G., Vendramin P., Pedaci M., Piersanti M., Changing careers and trajectories - How individuals cope with organisational change and restructuring WORKS Report D12.4 (2009) All WORKS reports are downloadable from


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