As a result of the World Trade Organization and globalization, changes in world economies have affected business structures, work systems and employment relations.
These resulted in dramatic changes in labor experiences. These changes are adaptive responses to cope with the pressures of globalization, competition and rapid innovation. The responses include labor and hiring strategies (Tompa et. al., 2007). Examples of these strategies are flexible staffing, reduction or extension of work hours, contractualization, among others.
According to Vosko (2010), standard employment relation (SER) is defined as a full-time continuous relationship. In this relationship, the worker has one employer, works on the employee’s premises under direct supervision and has access to comprehensive benefits and entitlements. Lamentably, current labor and hiring strategies have been contributing to the dramatic rise of work experiences that are nonstandard, atypical and precarious. These employments are characterized by “uncertainty, limited access to regulatory protections, lack of control and low income.”
In their framework, researchers Tompa et. al. (2007) identified the eight dimensions of these work experiences. These are uncertainty of continuing work, lack of control over work processes, lack of legal and institutional protection, income and benefits inadequacy, ambiguous work-role status, risk of exposure to physical hazards, social environment at work, and training and career advancement opportunities.
Although these work experiences are currently commonplace, the effect on the workers could be devastating. Studies have shown that exposure to these experiences leads to stress. And stress will eventually lead to adverse health outcomes. Regardless of the frequency, intensity and duration of these exposures, the outcome is always inevitable.
Moreover, any one of the dimensions is sufficient to lead sufficiently outcome.
Incidentally, the framework was not explicit in identifying the adverse health outcomes. However, it qualifies that the degree of outcomes is dependent on contextual factors.
These factors include sociodemographic characteristics such as age, gender, marital status, number of dependents; economic factors such as spousal earnings, other family income sources; and personal attributes such as psychological, physiological and personal resources available to cope with adversity.
Ideally, management should minimize the dimensions of work that can be considered as precarious. However, if these are inevitable, the responsibility lies with the management to mitigate the effects of these experiences. The framework seems to insinuate imply that the worker is the sole arbiter of the effect. Perhaps this explains why Vosko (2006) did not limit the contextual factors to the individual worker. According to her, precariousness may also be shaped by the social context and social locations, which may include the occupation, industry, sector or geographical location. In other words, the outcome can be mitigated by factors that are external and beyond the control of the worker.
We would like to believe that the manager of the post-2008 era is more aware of the welfare of other stakeholders. However, practice proves that giving all stakeholders equal consideration could be difficult and may be hardly realistic. The Tompa et. al. framework provides managers a useful tool for identifying current practices that may eventually hurt the workers. Moreover, it gives managers a guide for mitigating, if not preventing, the adverse outcomes.
After all, if cure is elusive, the best that one can do is to relieve the pain.
Real Carpio So lectures on strategic management, organizational behavior and management of organizations at the Management and Organization Department at De La Salle University. He is also an entrepreneur and a management consultant. He coaches select clients on strategic planning and marketing. He also lectures on Strategic Management, Organizational Behavior and Management of Organizations at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business at De La Salle University Manila. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.