Balanced Jobs

In any economy there are jobs that define the tasks that individual workers perform. In hierarchical economies, such as capitalism or centrally planned socialism, a majority of jobs entail relatively disempowering and undesirable tasks, whereas the minority of jobs entail mostly empowering and desirable tasks. Disempowering work includes tasks that largely consist of repetitive or mundane labour. Empowering work includes tasks that consist of professional, intellectual, managerial or technical labour.

The uneven distribution of tasks in hierarchical economies makes the labour and life of some more empowering and often more desirable than the labour of others. Additionally, this minority tend to monopolise information and knowledge at the workplace because they do most of the empowering tasks. Since influence over economic decision-making is affected by the knowledge obtained at the workplace, it is likely that those workers who obtain more confidence and knowledge will dominate meetings and discussions even when each worker has one vote. Uneven distribution of empowering and desirable tasks thus foster class division and the emergence of hierarchies.

A participatory economy aims to organise jobs differently. To the extent it is possible and practical, worker councils are called upon to distribute and combine tasks into jobs so that all participate in some empowering and desirable tasks. This is for two reasons:

  1. to avoid the emergence of class divisions, so that a formal right to participate in economic decision-making equates to an effective right to participate equally. This promotes the value of self-management.
  2. to fairly share the burdens and benefits of labour, so everyone has the opportunity to do fulfilling and desirable work. This promotes the value of justice.

Specialisation will not be eliminated by balanced jobs. The idea is not that everyone perform every task, or that all jobs are rotated. A balanced job will still only involve a small number of tasks. For example, there will be workers that still specialise in surgery, architecture, engineering and so on. However, if the specialised tasks are more empowering than tasks are on average, those who perform them will also perform some less empowering tasks as well.

EXAMPLE – One possible way that job balancing could be achieved, could be to rank tasks from 1-20; 20 being the most empowering and 1 the least. In the illustration above, each worker has a job that includes a set of different tasks that on average have the same overall level of empowerment as other workers, which is 14 in the example shown.

The balancing of jobs is a flexible process and could be conducted over months and not over every hour or day. Workers with higher than average levels of desirable work may also work more hours or obtain less income as balancing mechanisms. The balancing of jobs will also consider the contexts of work places, such as what is practical in a given situation. Technological and individual capabilities and preferences will also be taken into account. Because the balancing is undertaken within worker councils, and not by external bureaucracies, there is scope for balancing jobs in accord with workers’ numerous desires, abilities and skills as well as the specific characteristics of a work place.