Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search


Are we happy living in Handy's Age of Unreason?

In 1989 Charles Handy wrote The Age of Unreason. It's a book that looked forward to a time where telecommuting would be an everyday reality.

We live in that world today, although we use the term working from home. 

The book contains other predictions that were on the money.

When nothing is forever

Handy forecasted that organisations would no longer hire vast numbers of workers. Instead they either employ on a temporary basis or hire people as consultants. He looked forward to a world where people no longer regard jobs, marriage – or any other aspect of their lives – as being forever.

That's a reasonable take on today’s job market. Many of us live in the gig economy. Today many companies are hollowed out shells with key employees not being on the payroll.

Some of those companies are huge. Uber doesn't employ drivers, it uses contractors. The people working at the sharp end of the courier business are not employees even though they wear company uniforms.

Contactor chains

When someone from a telecommunications company installs your fibre, they might drive a van with company logo and wear a branded t-shirt, but legally they are subcontractors working for contractors. They may even be subcontractors to the subcontractors who are working for contractors.

In the book Handy explored the contradiction that employers want to hire staff that have both knowledge and experience even though it is impossible to get experience without first getting a job.

He says there are professions where young people move through the ranks to the point where they can switch careers. In 1989 journalism looked like a good example of this. Even today young journalists have huge amounts of responsibility early in their careers. Few stay with the job for decades, the training is often valuable elsewhere.

Likewise people who start out in tech careers dealing with customers on help desks. That can be a fast track to better paid work, although that is not always the case. It can also be a dead-end.

Work harder but for less time

Another idea in The Age of Unreason is that people have shorter careers in the past, but that they work harder. This means that over the length of their working life they often rack up as many hours as earlier generations.

Handy says people spend longer in education so they start working later. Yet employers encourage them to leave work at an earlier age.

Few people stay with the big management consulting firms for much more than a decade. The graduates of these firms are in demand elsewhere.

A career in, say, international banking might last from the age of 25 to 50, that's 25 years. In earlier generations, the same career might have lasted almost 50 years from 18 to 68.

One twist Handy misses is that many of today’s employees work longer hours than people did in the 1980s. Although he would feel right at home with the modern managers and business owners who innovate with ideas like the four-day week or nine-day fortnight.

The fact that these schemes make workers more productive and happier at the same time shows they have a better understanding of today's commercial world than those who cling to more traditional ideas.

Are we happy living in Handy's Age of Unreason? was first posted at billbennett.co.nz.

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On Finding A Model To Replace The Monarchy

One feels reluctant to pre-empt the verdict of history, but maybe we need to have a Plan B in mind just in case the reign of King Charles III turns out badly. With that possibility in mind, are there any other countries that do a reasonably good job of electing their ceremonial head of state? There is no perfect model for New Zealand to follow but - arguably - Ireland has made a pretty good fist of it over the past 70 years or so. Ireland has roughly the same population as New Zealand, so the pool of talent is similar in size...

Alastair Thompson: Are There TPLF Ethiopia Insurgency Training & Support Operations in Uganda?

Mystery Document Alleges:
Covert Operation has US/Egypt Support
Operations Coordinated between South Sudan, TPLF and Uganda
Planning began December 2021...



Government: Welcomes Climate Change Commission Advice On Agricultural Pricing System
The Government has welcomed advice from the Climate Change Commission assessing readiness in the agricultural sector for an emissions pricing system... More>>


Government: Action To Tackle Delays In Family Court
New legislation aimed at tackling delays in the family justice system, will help improve the wellbeing of thousands of children caught up in Family Court disputes every year, Justice Minister Kiri Allan says... More>>

Prime Minister: Chatham House Speech
What an honour it is to be back in London, and to be here at Chatham house. This visit represents much for me. The reopening of borders and resumption of travel after a difficult few years... More>>

Economy: Financial Statements Of The Government Of New Zealand
Please note the next Financial Statements of the Government of New Zealand to be released will be for the full year ended 30 June 2022. It is anticipated that these will be released in early October 2022... More>>

Government: New Era For Better Health In Aotearoa New Zealand

The Government has today delivered a nationwide health system that will ensure better outcomes for all New Zealanders with the establishment of Te Whatu Ora - Health New Zealand... More>>

Greens: Alcohol Harm Minimisation Bill Pulled From Biscuit Tin

After years of research and advocacy, Parliament will finally consider legislation to take meaningful action on alcohol harm, says the Greens... More>>




InfoPages News Channels