ZIMBABWE – In today’s Zimbabwe there is serious conflict between workers who want jobs for life or permanent jobs and employers who want to rely more on fixed term contracts and other service providers.
The debate about jobs for life is not only confined to Zimbabwe but it is a global one as workers expect jobs they are doing to last until their retirement so as to benefit from occupational pensions.
The present global business environment is fast changing with the world of work changing fast forcing people to change jobs more frequently and often taking fixed term appointments, temporary jobs, agency work and other casual work.
With the introduction of technology more people are becoming self-employed and only sell their services. Fixed working time is slowly disappearing with service providers providing services throughout the day.
Compensation has also changed with focus now on targets or performance related pay or service delivery related pay. Individuals are making more and there is a move towards dictating what one will earn at any particular time.
The developed world has coined a new term “flexibilisation” to define the frequently changing skills mix requirement where workers can no longer afford to remain rigid behind an employment contract that was agreed a year ago or collective bargaining agreement, they risk holding a contract where there is no work and worse cases the business folds because the world no longer needs the service provided by the worker.
With rapid change in market demands where consumers expect products and services to meet their ever changing expectations and desires, labour cannot be expected to remain static. Employers need flexibility and jobs therefore cannot remain permanent.
It is estimated that in California the fifth largest economy in the world, only 25 percent of the working population have permanent jobs and in the successful Asian countries there is nothing called a permanent job.
The question for Zimbabwe is how do we cope with these changes without destroying the lives of those who had an expectation of permanent jobs and now have to frequently change jobs. I am of the view that our education system and our business model as a country should talk to the global village trends and respond accordingly.
Trade Unions may become irrelevant if they do not respond to the changes. There is a need for our trade unions to look beyond jobs for life and accept that not all workers will get jobs for life and look at how they can best serve the interests of workers who are on fixed term contracts who work for agencies and the self-employed worked but providing services that make them strictly speaking employees.
In conclusion, jobs for life will continue to diminish and workers should continuously develop themselves to take job changes or even go for new careers that talk to the changing world of work.