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New employment conditions threaten well-being and quality of work

We are developing a labour market that pressurises employees while undermining the high quality that our education system has otherwise paved the way for, according to researcher Janne Glerup.
Janne Gleerup
The new employment conditions also threaten the quality of work, according to researcher Janne Glerup.

Time limited employment, informal contracts - fast in, fast out.

A number of studies show that employment conditions in the Danish labour market are changing. There is a price to pay when more and more Danes have to jump from job to job, says Associate Professor Janne Gleerup from Roskilde University.

"Our study shows that temporary employees often have poorer pay and working conditions than their full-time colleagues, and that they experience discrimination in relation to possibilities for influence, privileges and development opportunities, which many people find quite hurtful."

Janne Gleerup is currently completing a research project, where she has worked with several other researchers to conduct interviews and workshops with temporarily employed academics in the municipal area, at universities and in the cultural sector.

"An increasing proportion of academics are employed in temporary positions, even though they would rather have a permanent position", says Janne Gleerup:

"It is new that academics as a whole are increasingly offered temporary employment. It is also becoming more prevalent in the public sector and for people with medium and long educations. In other words, a group of people who thought they had educated themselves away from this risk."

A clear picture emerges among the employees from Janne Gleerup's survey, she says:

"Large-scale replacements among the employee group means that the collegial relationships are weakened. This compromises the feelings of community and many temporary employees lack a feeling of belonging", says Janne Gleerup.

She regards it as an important task for the trade unions to give a voice to the temporary employees' working life experiences and to develop new strategies to care for their interests.

"From a democratic perspective, it is important to counteract the development of A-teams and B-teams in the labour market, because this would adversely affect the cohesion of society. But trade unions are in a dilemma. On the one hand, they would in principle like to limit the scope of temporary employment and, on the other hand, they must accept that temporary employment is a condition for a growing group of their members", explains Janne Gleerup.

Socio-economic consequences

It is not just the sense of community that is under pressure now, where temporary employment is becoming increasing prevalent. The new conditions also threaten the quality of the work, because the changing conditions have a major impact on the psychological working environment and on collegiality, and thus on the quality of the work, according to Janne Gleerup:

"A lot of continuity, commitment and planning is lost when people are only employed for e.g. 6 months at a time. A significant loss of knowledge occurs. And that is important from a socio-economic perspective", she says.

"We are developing some frameworks in the labour market that undermine the high quality that our comprehensive education system and labour market agreements have otherwise paved the way for", she points out.

At the same time, Janne Gleerup emphasises that it is difficult for the individual company to take responsibility for a structural trend of change:

"When the economy is under pressure, and all the others are also using low-paid, temporary employees, then you cannot afford to be the only one not following the trend. It is also difficult to measure a decline in quality in the short term. You have to have a greater social perspective to do that", she says.

Important area

Janne Gleerup points out that in Denmark, the trend is a side-effect of globalization and the internationalization of the labour market, but she believes that we need to be more concerned with the consequences of this trend and with the opportunities for action that we have:

"We have to consider what it does to us as a society when more and more people are becoming increasingly insecure regarding their basic circumstances. We spend an incredible amount of our waking hours at work, so it's important to examine what the growing number of temporary positions will mean for our lives and for society as a whole. It's important to examine how it will affect our opportunities to thrive in our working life - and in our life as a whole", she says, adding:

"Will increased competition and less favourable employment conditions automatically lead to higher quality and higher productivity? Or will the increasingly competitive conditions between people have some negative effects that we are neglecting to consider?"

Janne Gleerup's current research project is funded by the Danish Association of Masters and PhDs. The results of the project will be presented in a book published in the autumn.

Janne Gleerup, associate professor at the Department of People and Technology, teaches at the master's degree subjects Educational Studies and Working Life Studies, at the Bachelor in Social Sciences and at the Graduate School of Lifelong Learning.