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Employment
In the last years, unemployment and precarisation of living and working conditions have dramatically increased in many European countries. In Spain and Greece, more than a quarter of the active population is jobless, and this rate has risen to over 50% with regard to youth unemployment. Current trends in Europe are also highlighting the fact that having a job in itself does not protect a person from poverty. According to Eurostat statistics, more than 8% of employees within the EU are considered as the “working poor”.
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This situation, to some extent, has resulted from the growing numbers of contracts without job security, either on a part‑time basis or of limited duration. Moreover, in a context characterised by greater inequalities, forcing workers to compete with one another leads to a levelling down of working conditions, with the best‑protected employees ultimately seeing their situation slowly deteriorate.

This kind of competition is particularly visible between those regarded as “insiders” (those benefiting from already stable contracts, usually working in highly productive sectors) and “outsiders” (those recruited on a more flexible basis, often through temporary employment agencies, and mainly working in services or outsourced production activities). The levelling down of working conditions is also linked to de facto competition from undeclared workers.

The conditions imposed on migrants, especially those in irregular or illegal situations, are particularly alarming. Their vulnerable status often forces them to take on underpaid jobs in very poor working conditions, jeopardising their health (handling dangerous chemicals with no protection, long working hours, and so on). This is occuring particularly in sectors where few certified skills are required, such as catering, construction, farm or domestic work.

In this context of the precarisation of living and working conditions, several experiences are proposing different approaches towards improving work. Below are some examples.

Image Pictures by Marjan Lazarevski, Brunolaon, Coroutine, Rimaflow and Inkyhack

Examples of the different types of ACTIONS (in orange) and POLICIES (in green) that seek to provide access to decent working conditions as well to rethink employment and its role in accessing resources.

Co-working

This practice consists in sharing a collaborative environment for work. Co-workers are usually self-employed workers, students or people working for different organisations that look for a space to develop their activities. It generally enables access to a desk, space for meetings, and material - the costs of which are being supported by the community of co-workers, such as high-tech equipment. It also provides a creative and inspiring environment for the people involved in the project.

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One person = one voice

Organisations and businesses can be structured in very different ways. Some of the structuring consists in placing workers on an equal footing. This implies enabling each worker to take part in the decision-making process and to give the same value to his/her voice. The experiences based on the principal “one person = one voice” may have different internal organisation structures. In some cases an assembly of workers meets regularly to take decisions, in others there is a rotation of tasks which means that each worker is, at a certain point, part of the administration board. The principle of equal footing is quite often being chosen by former employees who have suffered the effects of a failed enterprise. This much is evident in the experiences of Ri-Maflow in Italy, Mol-matric in Spain or Ambiance Bois in France (here, workers also decided to receive an equal wage regardless of the task being performed). The Spanish and French experiences have been on-going for more than 25 years, demonstrating in this way the sustainability (in terms of time, for instance) of these models.

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Limiting working hours

In societies characterised by high levels of unemployment (but also over-work, stress and low well-being) with little time for social and domestic work, limiting the working week whilst maintaining respectable wages is appearing as a path that could lead towards greater well-being for all.

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Separating work from access to resources

Even though the money earned from paid working activities is still the main way to access resources in European societies, it is not the only path. Other initiatives and practices propose alternative ways to access different resources.

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For other examples, click on: Alternative Economies

Accessing dignified work

As mentioned, low-income and low-profile work are often characterised by irregular or poor working conditions. Norms and practices can help to improve the situation towards more dignified working conditions.

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All Examples of Actions and Policies

La Trobada

Auteur : Louise Hain - Publié le : 2013-07-18 21:45 -

A social “time restaurant” providing quality meals for everyone: unemployed persons can trade 2 hours’ work for a free meal.

Social Cohesion Clinic

Auteur : Roman Kryvosheia / Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-07-16 13:42 -

The project deals with issues like the social exclusion of vulnerable groups of citizens, due to their limited ability to exercise their rights, and the exclusion of recent law graduates from the labour market due to a lack of work experience.

Retail Ready People

Auteur : Lorna Muddiman - Publié le : 2013-07-02 15:18 -
Jeunesse

Providing solutions for job shortages and vacant property in the UK, Retail Ready People is a free 12-week skills development and volunteering programme which gives 16 – 25 year olds the chance to set up and run a high street shop in empty buildings in their local area.

Izlelo Family Restaurant

Auteur : Louise Hain - Publié le : 2013-06-21 09:13 -
Izlelo

Izlelo is the first restaurant in Hungary, which provides skill training and permanent employment to people with disabilities using a sustainable business model.

Officine Zero

Auteur : alessandra sciurba - Publié le : 2013-06-12 13:33 -

Conversion of an abandoned factory into a space for sustainable production, co-housing and co-working.

Introducing a basic income

Auteur : Anne-Iris Romens - Publié le : 2013-05-16 14:15 -

The introduction of a basic income – now demanded by numerous movements in Europe – consists in a regular income paid by a political community to each of its members on an individual basis and unconditionally.

Infirmiers de rue (Street nurses)

Auteur : Louise Hain - Publié le : 2013-05-13 08:58 -
Infirmiers de rue

Infirmiers de rue bridges the gap between the streets and health actors to bring care and hygiene to homeless people through an empowering method around people’s dignity, self-esteem and responsibility. Using hygiene as an entry point for self-recovery, the Association ensures long-term support until housing re-insertion.

Recuperiamoci!

Auteur : alessandra sciurba - Publié le : 2013-05-07 12:37 -

"Recuperiamoci!" is a non-profit solidarity network within which circulates all the work experience that exists in the "prison sphere", and which aims to raise awareness and to improve the dignity of the alternative economy produced by the activity of prison inmates.

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