"Social contracts" are not born fully armed from the brains of political scientists. They are usually signed with the left arm of the "signing ruler" firmly twisted in his back by vociferous people who are mainly interested in just a few of the specific items of the deal: a "Clause #1" that incorporates precisely what necessity imposes. We can look upon the rest of any social contract as "small print", drafted by far-seeing economist and philosophers-about-human-nature as an attempt to cope with a "global situation".
The application of Clause #1, after a social contract is signed, changes so drastically the "global situation", however, that it usually transforms the small print into wishful thinking. The real detailed rules for the new game are established slowly, as a series of addenda to the social contract, usually to condone what has to be done. Necessity, remember? In Part II, we will limit our comments to Clause #1, which will make for much safer soothsaying.
Clause #1 of the new social contract will have been settled entirely to the people's satisfaction only when society will provide full employment with guaranteed income for everybody. When this has been agreed upon, whatever the grand name of the package that comes with it, we will have moved out of the null-p. orbits and landed safely into the Creative Society.
In preceding Chapters, we have seen why there is a crisis, and we have identified some of the principles, mechanisms and interplays that we must take into account before we try to solve this work crisis, lest we resist necessity itself... and really get licked! Here, a solution is proposed. Let's not think of it as various solutions but as a solution, because it is a package and its elements are interrelated, just like the elements of the problem are not independent from each others.
This is not a blueprint, just a sketch. It is not, however, a wild-eye scheme concocted by seminal thinkers at the end of a symposium; it is a concrete proposal, based on more than twenty years of experience in the fields of Manpower Planning and Human Resources Development, in America, Europe and a score of Third World countries. I do not call all the loopholes by name, which would be tedious and often self-defeating, but what is proposed here is feasible, and reasonably clear of technical incongruities.
This solution makes provisions also for common human weaknesses such as inertia, greed and ambition, and it points readily in the direction that should lead "rulers" - (that is those who could decide to apply this solution) - to what reflection should show them to be their most gratifying escape out of the present crisis. It is also in the best interest of all..., which is why it comes in book form rather than as a consultant's report.
This Part II may be less easy reading than the previous ones, but
I have not tried to make it arduous on purpose. Let nobody be fooled by
the seemingly jocular treatment I may give to some aspects of the question;
the solution proposed is always serious... and feasible.
1 -THE SMART MATCHMAKER
Management of human resources and, to begin with, full-employment. Full-employment is paramount: nothing is more important for our society at this point in time, than to welcome back our Do-not's and Epsilons and to make it one society once again. Therefore, the first positive step towards Clause #1 will occur any time now: the State will accept the mandate to optimize the use of our human resources.
Before we go any further - and lest we begin to argue light-years away from our subject, argue about human exploitation and the like, for instance, - we must clarify this "use of our human resources" concept. Traditionally, production is said to rest on three factors: resources - which are basically the substance we are trying to transform and the non-human energy we harness to do it; capital - that is the investment, money, facilities, tools and equipment we use; and labour , the work of all the "human resources" required to achieve transformation. Putting these three factors together, we "produce": we create the "product", the more desirable something that will then be offered to the consumer.
Work is such an essential factor of production that we regretfully impose it, even upon ourselves, whenever we decide to do anything at all to achieve a result. Each of us has, in his own brain and brawns, his own "Homo Faber" whom he systematically exploits for his own profit as a consumer. It seems perfectly legitimate to consider one's own Homo Faber as a factor of production and to try and maximize the results of his efforts. This is what work-management, productivity and the use of human resources are all about.
Therefore, let's not forget, when we discuss the use of human resources, that we are talking about doing unto others, on a collective scale, what everyone is always doing unto himself. "Consumers", for whose satisfaction something is being produced, have not landed from Mars, but happen to be the same workers who, wearing a different hat, appear in the production process as the "human resources". The very same? Well..., if we leave aside distortions in income distribution, "workers" and "consumers" are one and the same crowd... but there are distortions: some people work more, while others consume more.
This, however, is another problem entirely. We may agree or disagree
with the way our society shares the workload and distributes the spoils,
we may support the present system or find it repugnant, but this is a social
and political question; it should be debated at length in the proper forum,
but has no bearing on what we are discussing here. We are discussing work
and the efficient use of all our human resources, meaning you and me. Work
has to be done to attain any production objectives, whether they be set
individually... or collectively by any color and shape of an octopus, and
working should be made as efficient and painless as possible. Each of us
is both a worker and a consumer, and has a vested interest in better efficiency,
in the optimal "use of the human resources". This is what this
Chapter is dealing with.
Getting to know you...
There are workers and work - "work" meaning jobs for a little while yet - and they must come together. In a primitive economy, or even a simple industrial system, workers and jobs manage to meet each other on their own, following one of the two traditional methods of courtship that have existed since the dawn of history, alternating between the "bridegroom-seeks-bride" and the "bride-attracts-bridegroom" approaches.
Both methods have drawbacks. In matrimonial affairs, the first often leads to brides being dragged away by the hair from their native caves, while the second is conducive to "red light districts", great sales in lipsticks and huge alimonies. When applied to matching workers and jobs, the first approach was for employers to go and get biomachines as needed, on the "open" market, while the second led alternatively to long queues at the factories gates, or Labour turning the thumbscrews on helpless employers. To avoid these problems, some societies decided, pretty early in history, that parental guidance was the best way to achieve happy marriages; the modern equivalent, on the labour market, is to be seen in the "planned economies" in which everyone is found a slot in the production system without much previous consultation. It is notoriously unpopular with brides and bridegrooms alike.
Then, there is another alternative yet. When religious or social circumstances created obstacles that made it harder to find a proper mate than just meeting the kid next door, and when, simultaneously, political power that would have allowed for coercion was absent, other cultures had human entrepreneurship bloom into another remarkable institution: matchmaking. The idea of matchmaking is for someone with information, know-how and flair to get the parties acquainted - and maybe to apply some subtle social pressure and persuasion - to arrive at a marriage that will make everybody happy, including the future spouses themselves.
The concept of matchmaking has a future on the manpower scene. When workers cease to be interchangeable, and finding the best and most efficient use for each worker becomes quite complex, somebody with "information, know-how and flair" must lend a helping hand. Agencies and headhunters have taken a crack at it, but this is not enough, for we have passed the point where it could be done efficiently by private firms for a profit: the amortization of the investment in matching would impose much too severe a constraint on mobility. Matchmaking is now in our common interest: the State must become the Smart Matchmaker.
The State, in principle, may immediately take upon itself the full responsibility to optimize the use of our human resources; in the beginning, though, the State will not tinker with either jobs or workers: it does not have, with the brides or bridegrooms, the credibility to do so. The State will keep a low profile at first, and will help them to get acquainted with each other. In the beginning the State will merely inform.
This should not make waves, since it has been agreed for sometime that information is a legitimate object of Government intervention. We already have Employment policies, Employment Offices, Employment statistics and a huge mass of material on Labour, work, jobs, tasks, etc... We will put it to use and improve upon it. The first unmistakable sign that we are moving towards a deal on Clause #1 will be that the State will become serious about job information.
Right now, it is not doing it seriously. The Industrial Age has been with us for about two centuries, our whole society is work-oriented, unemployment is presently the number one problem we face... and yet, we still do not know precisely how much - or what kind - of work is really needed to attain our production objectives, and we know even less about our available human resources.
We know of course that the labour force is not homogeneous, that workers are not interchangeable, that jobs differ widely from one to another, and that having full employment does not mean matching one batch of nuts with one batch of bolts. We even have a lot of statistics on it. We know, for instance, the "active population" (that is the number of people over 16), we know how many of these "participate" in the labour force and how many are officially "unemployed". We know them by age, by sex, race and what not, and we also have a breakdown, in some details, of the labour force by "industries" and "occupations"...
As statistics go, it is not bad at all, and we have a pretty sound basis for studies, analyses, extrapolations, and almost infinite manipulation of figures to forecast or explain all sorts of trends. People, in jest, have quipped that the only thing we do not know about the workers, is their names and addresses. The problem is that we should... The statistics we have are good, but were not meant to be operational day-to-day tools for matching jobs and workers; for this purpose, they are useless, and we will have nothing much to work with until we do know them one by one, brides and bridegrooms, with their names and addresses.
Everybody knows that there are engineers, mill-wrights, clerks and other types of workers, all with different skills and aptitudes. What everybody does not know is the incredible and increasing complexity of the situation. Experts in the field have developed their own lingo - with which the reader does not have to be bothered - but, just as a clue, consider that even in the high days of industrial production, when no efforts were spared to mechanize both work and the workers and to make all workers as identical and machine-like as possible, the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (D.O.T.) could still identify tens of thousands of different jobs in the United States, and that the International Standard Classification of Occupation (ISCO), which was used for similar purpose in most other WINs, had to rely on a 7-digit code to express the complexity of the job market!
Matching jobs with workers means matching two very heterogeneous sets; what's making it worse, is that jobs and workers alike always wear a mask, go under false names and constantly change their identity. The "jobs", for instance are created and continuously modified to meet the needs of production, the changes in technology and the respective costs of capital and labour; their real content will also vary according to the size of the production unit itself. Yet, the "name" of the job may remain constant, through all changes, and may well have been chosen, to begin with, either to satisfy the ego of the worker or, to the contrary, to downgrade his functions and reduce his corresponding salary.
The result is that many jobs that go by the same name actually cover different realities and call upon workers who must have different skills, aptitudes, training and experience. A job for a "mechanic" or for an "engineer" may be any of so many different things, that knowing on a statistical basis that there are so many of these or those in the U.S. is only mildly instructive. If we really want to know what a job is all about and what its requirements are, we must analyze it, break down its component tasks, and identify these tasks DOT or ISCO fashion. Even doing that, though, does not solve the problem of matching.
Knowing the job with more accuracy is but half the problem and of little help for matching, if we do not have on hand a compatible "Dictionary of Educational Titles", or an "International Standard Classification of Training Programs"... that could tell us also what the bride looks like. But there are simply no such valid instruments in existence. We really do not know, now, how to describe what the worker can do.
We may assume that a certain certificate, diploma or degree will be proof that the worker has the skills we require for a given job, but this is a very risky hypothesis, because programs, curricula contents, and the real significance of tests and controls vary from one school to another and, within the same school, are constantly modified to fit the theories and whims of educators. We do not really know on "face value" what a degree means or what Mr. Jones, engineer or mechanic, really knows.
Practically, the fact that an employer is looking for a "mechanic" does not mean of course, by any stretch of the imagination, that you, as a "mechanic", can do the job. Coding the job and looking at your credentials will circumscribe the problem but, after two centuries of matching workers with jobs, the penultimate test will still be today to look up your resume and find out whether or not you have been recently working at something similar. The final test, like in any type of matchmaking, will be to put you to trial to see how you do.
It is the penultimate step that is a bore and makes for a system which is biased against mobility, since the proof of what you can do lies finally in what you have done. This approach was a reasonable way to do things, when most people could do only a small number of tasks all closely related one to the other in the production system, and when expertise grew with experience, by accretion, from an original educational basis that was very limited. In such a situation mobility was foul word to start with and, to replace a worker by another, it was perfectly logical to look first for somebody who would have followed more or less the same career path.
Not so anymore, since an "unprogrammable" job is at the intersection of many skills and aptitudes, and it is not certain at all, either that the best man to take charge of a job that evolves continuously is somebody who has followed the same path as his predecessor... or that the optimal use we can make of any worker, in the future, will be to assign him to his present job in the shape it will vest tomorrow as it keeps evolving.
Not only must we expect mobility to be essential to resource optimization
in the future but, even today, the haphazard way in which most workers have
been matched to their present jobs on the labour market would suggest a
profligate attitude... and an awful lot of divorces by consent. It is highly
probable that, optimally, a large number of today's workers should be working
at something else that would best fit their skills and aspirations. Optimization
of our human resources does not mean simply that we should find a niche
for next year's graduates; it means that mobility should be increased immediately
for people already at work.
... and telling it all
This is what is bound to occur, the moment more adequate information is made available to both workers and employers. The first responsibility that the State will undertake - useful and unobtrusive - will be to make information available and to play the part of a Smart Matchmaker.
Call it the Job and Manpower Registration Act. The State will provide free job analysis services to employers large and small, keep the jobs' profiles on record and revise them on request; simultaneously, all workers who care to register and be interviewed will be identified and coded in terms compatible with the vocabulary of tasks' description. Matching can then be done on one nation-wide computerized system.
Let's see how the system would work. On one side, any employer who wants to recruit or hire a worker will simply identify himself to the system - (at the local Employment Office, or through his own in-house access to the system if he can afford a cheap terminal) - and fill in how many workers he requires, identifying his needs in terms of the "skill codes" that job analysis of his production process will have defined.
On the other side, any worker registered with the employment system will be issued a Skillcard, on which will be code-printed his own skills. Let the worker introduce his Skillcard in the machine at any Employment Office, and he will receive on the spot a listing of all employers presently hiring in any of the skill categories for which he is qualified.
Simply inserting his card once again and punching the code number of any hiring employer, the worker could then make himself known to this employer, make manifest his interest for the job, and transmit to the employer a copy of his full resume on file with the system, either directly or through the employer's local Employment Office.
From then on, it would be up to the employer to pursue the matter further, arrange for an interview, etc. With this procedure, the resume is never made available to any employer without the individual's consent; the employer may enjoy the same discretion, simply asking his local Employment office for a code number and indicating "name on file" and the address of his local Employment office rather than his own .
Matching becomes easy the minute a compatible vocabulary is used to describe both the task-components of the jobs and the precise skills of the workers. This is the first essential step towards a sensible solution to the problem of unemployment. It is so obvious, that it is sometimes hard to convince decision-makers that this is not what is being done at this very moment. Believe me, IT IS NOT! To implement such a system is not fundamentally a technical problem; it is a matter of resources and decision. Only the State can afford to undertake this effort and the State should do it NOW.
This matchmaking system would be a tremendous plus, both for the workers - (who presently almost have to peddle their skills door-to-door!) - and for employers, for whom it would replace a costly standard procedure of ads in the newspapers and dealings with headhunters. It would be so advantageous, that it would not even have to be mandatory... save for recipients of Unemployment Benefits, or of any kind of Social Security payments, for whom acceptance of transfer payments should imply automatic referral of their resume to all employers hiring in any of the skill-categories for which they have been qualified. For all other workers and all employers, let us just offer the service and they will jump at it; they have absolutely everything to gain and absolutely nothing to lose.
Almost instantaneous access to all skilled workers for employers and
to all job opportunities for workers. Is it technically feasible? Emphatically
yes! The job analysis part of the procedure is already well known and the
biggest problem might be to agree on what precise methodology should be
standardized and universally applied. To identify the workers, using a vocabulary
compatible with the one used for job analysis, does not present insuperable
obstacles either; provided we agree to proceed empirically and take a step-by-step
Taking the steps to truth
As a first step, let's work on the assumption that everybody is qualified for the job at which he is presently working and has been working for at least six months; qualified for all the jobs that call for skills that are entirely included amongst the skills that are required to hold a job for which he is thus qualified; qualified also to perform all the tasks of all the jobs he has previously occupied successfully, and the hiring requirements for which have not been changed since he held that job. A large assumption ? It is on this basis that the present system operates right now! The difference is that once it is accepted as a fact... we may improve on it...
As a second step, we may assume - although it is obviously not so - that a worker knows everything that was part of an educational or training curriculum for which he holds a diploma. He should thus be qualified, knowledge-wise, for all the jobs the components of which job analysis shows to be entirely covered in the curricula that he went through successfully.
Qualified "knowledge-wise" only, meaning that if the job analysis reveals that something more than knowledge is required for total mastery of a job, be it some kind of dexterity, know-how that cannot be obtained through learning in the school system, or anything else, the worker then should not be presumed to be fully qualified for the job. To the contrary, the missing part of his qualification should be identified clearly, so that the individual and the system together can do something about it. "Doing something about it" would be the third step and we will come to it later.
Let's do the analyses, check the profiles and issue the skillcards. This empirical approach will not create a perfect system; it will bring a few problems out in the open. First of all, and although criteria for qualification would be more restrictive than the present standard procedure, going through this exercise will bring into the open a much greater reservoir of skills than we now admit. We will have to face the truth that it is only at the extreme limits of specialization that there is not, at present, a huge surplus of supply over demand on the market for skills.
Looking reality in the face will impose qualitative rather than quantitative goals, and we will prepare to deal with one of the most damning "imperfection" of the system, the assumption that whoever holds a degree has mastered the full content of the program for which it stands, and that these contents themselves are real prerequisite for competence on the labour market. Challenging this will open a Pandora's box.
The moment education is identified in terms of the undeniable evidence of job requirements obtained through job analysis, each worker will be in a position to know the precise value, on the labour market, of the education he has received. If he is a little curious, he may even find out which part of his education, which syllabus, which precise lesson had direct or indirect significance in terms of employment... and which of those data he had to learn to meet, not the requirements of a job, but someone's image of what a good student should know. We will face a huge demand for another type of professional education .
By then, the State will have acquired the capacity to identify nominally - and not as one statistical element of an abstract set! - each and every worker in the labour force. The State will know the surpluses and shortages of manpower, and also what precise knowledge would allow for an optimal match between the labour force and the needs of production. In terms of broad fields of learning, the State will even be able to foresee, with some accuracy at last, what will be the manpower needs months, even years ahead.
Facing a vociferous demand from Labour and Industry alike, the State - which by then should have obtained some credibility in matchmaking - will be in position to proceed with the next step towards optimization. Not satisfied to be merely the Smart Matchmaker dealing in information, it will be pushed by the workers and drawn by the employers to act upon the variables themselves with all the tools at its disposal. The benevolent Octopus will accept to become serious about teaching also.
Table of Content