A LOT of people think Jennifer Nedelsky’s plan for the future of work is crazy, but when most hear her radical manifesto, their reaction is: “Where do I sign?”.
The Canadian professor, a fellow for the Institute for Social Justice, has this theory that everyone, and she means everyone, should work part time.
Have we got your Mondayitis affected attention yet?
If Professor Nedelsky’s ideas were to be implemented, when the full-timers among you arrived at work today it would have been the beginning of a minimum 12, maximum 30-hour week. And if you’re one of the increasing number of graduates looking to gain employment or struggling to find that next opportunity, it wouldn’t be a problem.
The catch in this utopian labour model is that everyone would also be required to participate in part-time, unpaid care work for the same number of hours, 12 — 30.
Of the 11.8 million strong labour force in Australia, around 3.6 million of us work part time according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data.
More than half of working women are in part-time employment, with 46.4 per cent working full time hours or longer, while only 26.3 per cent of men work part time. Like most other countries, Australian women make a much larger contribution to unpaid care and domestic work the Australian Work and Life index suggests.
Professor Nedelsky uses feedback from employers who take on new mums who come back from maternity leave more efficient than ever, and those who complain about taking on workers with limited life skills, to support her “new norms”.
She says implementing part-time work for all would not only lead to full employment, it would break down gender inequality, lead to a better family life, and obviously see those in need of care in our community much better looked after. Not only would these ideas work, she says, but they would lead to an outcome that is “urgently needed if we are to survive on this planet”.
There doesn’t seem to be anything too remarkable about Tess Barns’ work and family status apart from an apparently enviable work-life balance. The Sydney mother to 18-month-old Jackson has recently returned to her primary school teaching position two days a week.
But break it down and she’s practically living out Nedelsky’s shared work and care proposal, albeit on a much smaller scale.
When Tess clocks off from teaching her primary school class on Tuesday afternoon, she hands over to a fellow teacher who takes over for the next three days after having spent the beginning of the week caring for her two-year-old.
On Wednesdays, Tess can give her attention not only to her son, but to her baby nephew AJ as well after they’ve been in Tess’s sister’s care for the past two days. While Tess and her colleague job-share, she and her sister have found a way to care-share as AJ’s mum works the other three days in her accounting job.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way and I know I’m in a situation where I don’t really have to worry,” Tess says.
It’s not a complete model but Tess’s situation goes some way to show the benefits of unpaid care combined with paid work among a community of willing participants.
Nedelsky’s argument is that if this is implemented across the board, it would address three serious problems: the unsustainable structure of work and family that puts enormous stress on families and forces workers into untenable choices; the slowly-shifting gender norms leaving women with less pay, economic security, leisure time and access to top jobs; the policy/care divide meaning those in top policy making positions are almost always people with very little experience of the demands of care taking.
It’s not people like Tess that need convincing that these issues need to be addressed, it’s the businesses that employ them.
READ FULL STORY Source: News Corp Australia