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Employment for a Sustainable Society: What Is To be Done?

The world of work has dramatically changed over the last three decades. Traditional employment relations have weakened, and in their wake job insecurity and income inequality have proliferated. Changes are not limited to industrialized countries. New forms of employment relations have emerged in developing economies and they may be of worldwide significance for the future. A succession of global financial crises and subsequent economic stagnation has revealed the structural problems contributing to unstable employment relations and polarized labor markets. Bottom-line short-termism likely only worsens these problems. Yet stable employment with equal opportunity is essential for sustainable socio-economic development and prosperity. Thus the 18th World Congress addresses the challenging question of how to redraw employment relations in order to achieve employment for a sustainable society. We invite contributions on this theme.


Track 1: Collective Voices and Social Dialogue for a Better Future

Worker representation and collective voice is the most important institutional basis for sustainable employment relations. Trends towards globalization of economies, technological development, deregulation and industrial restructuring have spurred on the weakening of unions, traditionally the most important instrument for collective voice. Union density continues to decline in many countries, while laws and regulations curtail the coverage of collective bargaining and effect its decentralization. This labor union decline has eroded previously stable employment relations, which has, in turn, diminished union power. Responding to the crisis of worker representation, there have been various attempts and experiments to restore and/or construct collective voices across countries: revitalization of labor unions, social dialogue at sectoral and/or national level, transnational worker representation, non-union employee representation, online protests and collective voice through internet/social media, and promotion of individual voices at the workplace, to name a few. This track will focus on trends in representation and the collective voice, new directions for collective voice, and evaluations of the various attempts to reconstruct the collective voice. Additionally, articles related to trade unions, union structures, collective bargaining, social dialogue, and alternative employee representation systems are most welcome.

  • Trends in labor unions: union density, union structures, organizing strategies, changes in the role of labor unions, and labor unions for atypical workers
  • Recent trends in legal regulations on the freedom of association, collective bargaining, and the right to strike
  • Unions’ responses to technological changes, de-skilling, workplace innovation, business restructuring, downsizing, and economic crises
  • Collective bargaining and dispute resolution: roles, processes, mediation and arbitration, formal and undercover strikes
  • National reforms of collective bargaining from a comparative perspective
  • Business leadership in corporate social responsibility and unions’ responses to CSR
  • Non-union employee representation of workers: roles, institutions, and strategies
  • New representation and voice through online and digital channels
  • Institutions and strategies for social dialogue: experiments and innovations
  • Globalization, social justice, and transnational voice mechanisms
  • Public sector employment relations: privatization vs. public goods providers
  • Cross-country studies on worker representation and voice

Track 2: HRM Challenges and Responses for the Changing Workplace

Economic globalization, technological development, and demographic changes have a dramatic impact on employment relations and the way people work. Workplaces and employment relations have fissured apart with more atypical workers, subcontracting, temporary agencies, and employee leasing. Recent changes in employment relations and workplaces may increase the vulnerability of workers through lower wages, lower employment security, and lower opportunity for workplace learning. They may also erode firm competitiveness by undermining the job and organizational attitudes of employees. How can we sustainably manage human resources considering these new challenges? How sustainable are existing HR systems and practices for the future? Are human resources still treated as a valuable asset for firms? How effective are high performance work systems at fissured workplaces? How can knowledge and skills be developed for the future? How can management promote equity among a diverse workforce with varied contracts and relationships within firms? This track welcomes papers investigating the nature of new developments in HRM and the effectiveness with which their policies and practices cope at today’s workplace. This track is open to all who want to share their experiences with HR challenges, their insights on the challenges we face, and possible solutions. In particular, an international or comparative approach will be most welcome. This track invites papers and workshops covering the following topics:

  • Efficient and equitable solutions in traditional areas of HRM, such as selection, performance appraisal, and compensation
  • High Performance Work Practices (HPWP) and their impact on employees, organizational performance, and employment relations
  • Demographic changes and their impact on HRM
  • Workforce diversity and its strategic utilization
  • Quality of work and mental health
  • Human resource development and skills formation: the impact of environmental changes on the skillset of the workforce
  • Employment contract and working time flexibility, and its efficient management
  • The impact of globalization on HRM systems and practices, and the evolution and transformation of HRM in multinational corporations (MNCs)
  • The effect of technological changes on jobs, employees, organizations, and employment relations

Track 3: Labor Market Dualization and Institutional Responses

Computers and information technology have dramatically affected labor markets, encouraging segmentation, dualization, and polarization. Rising inequality is closely related with such fundamental changes. At the same time, non-standard forms of work have spread to nearly every corner of the globe. The new shape of labor markets and the growing inequities that can be linked to their evolution demand new economic, legal and institutional approaches. Issues such as deregulation of employment policies, labor market flexibility, modernization of existing labor regulations, and the creation of new regulations require immediate attention. In essence, we need a new labor system fit for the future. Since labor systems in both developed and developing economies have their own unique characteristics, change makers should seek new alternatives and improvements relevant to their own circumstances. Rather than replicating dated systems of more successful neighbors, developing economies should choose a more sustainable labor law template with the goal of improving the quality and effectiveness of labor laws. With this view, this track invites papers that analyze labor markets undergoing dramatic changes and draw out their lessons in analysis from economic, legal and institutional perspectives. This track invites papers and workshops covering the following topics:

  • Technological change and its impact on the labor market
  • The economics of inequality and discrimination
  • Economic analysis of labor market institutions to fight poverty and unfairness (e.g. employment protection legislation, the minimum wage, labor unions, etc.)
  • Economic analysis of diversified employment (e.g. non-standard work, self-employment, etc.)
  • The role of labor market functioning in economic growth
  • Skills development and the education of workers
  • Active labor market polices
  • Adequate protection of employment patterns and the neutralization of the full-time employment social system
  • Responses of labor institutions to changes in employment and personnel management systems
  • Establishing an “equal treatment” principle
  • Balancing labor law goals with discrimination concerns
  • Maintaining the Labor Code as active employment policy
  • The role of collective bargaining agreements and individual negotiations in the regulation of wages and working conditions
  • Compliance with international trade agreements in relation to ILO standards

Track 4: Workforce Diversity, Labor Market Inequality and Social Integration

The rapid growth of the service and care economy in the context of globalization and innovation has changed the composition of the contemporary workforce. In particular, women have swelled the ranks of the workforce worldwide. The gap in economic participation between men and women has substantially decreased over the past four decades in most advanced economies. Additionally, the population of organizations has become significantly more diverse in multiple dimensions: ethnicity, race, disability, age, class, nationality, religion, and sexual identity. Workplace relations have thus become multilayered.
This increasing level of workforce heterogeneity with socio-cultural embeddedness can – as many authors in the research field of diversity management have claimed – be of benefit to both workers and employers by strengthening synergies from different ideas and perspectives. However, alongside recognition of difference has come discrimination, segmentation, and social exclusion within the workplace. Workers who fall into one or more minority categories – the intersectional group – are highly likely to be employed on precarious contracts, lack worker voice, and become part of a group often referred to as the ‘working poor’. Intersectionality between more than two workforce categories could amplify the challenges to an individual’s welfare and their chances in the labor market. At the same time, contemporary economic and political instability has aggravated labor market issues and driven new cataclysmic migration patterns, significantly deteriorated domestic workers’ tolerance and integrative attitudes. These trends have already shown up in reports of increased hostility and hatred against difference in the workplace. This track invites papers investigating how the dimensions of workforce difference impact work, employment relations, employee wellbeing, and organizational outcomes. In particular, the track welcomes papers that examine the comparative dimensions that influence national culture and institutions, and their impact on the relational processes and outcomes in the context of a changing workforce. We encourage authors to put forward policy implications for integrating different worker categories, creating positive outcomes for working lives and career progression, and strengthening organizational performance. Although not exhaustive, the topic list below provides suggestions for papers and workshops for this track.

  • Conceptual approaches to the work relationship in light of the changing composition of the workforce in the workplace, considering gender, ethnicity, race, nationality, age, class, religion, disability, and sexual identity.
  • Organizational processes and practices of combining different workforces:
    • Organizational culture and employer practices for or against workforce diversity
    • Social relations in the workplace: abusive supervision, workplace bullying and hatred
    • The relationship between increasing use of flexible work arrangements and unequal working conditions
  • Institutional protections for disadvantaged groups and their impact:
    • Workforce diversity and social exclusion: institutional processes and outcomes
    • International comparison of different policies for work-life balance and different outcomes of gender equality
    • Labor market outcomes of migrant workers; the impact of migration on labor markets of origin and destination countries
    • The patterns of international worker mobility and the characteristics of national and international approaches to integrate/exclude migrant workers
    • Citizenship at work in the context of workforce diversity and precarious employment: how to overcome the protection/implementation gap and regulatory failures
    • Causes and outcomes of representation precariousness; the role of unions and collective bargaining for integrating disadvantaged workers, and unions’ impact on workplace equality
  • Social enterprises and cooperatives
  • Post-crisis austerity and its implications for the integration of disadvantaged work groups
  • Addressing old and/or new forms of discrimination against minorities at work
  • How to meet and balance the social protection demands and labor market integration demands of an aging population

Track 5: Work and Employment Relations in Emerging Market Economies

The emerging market economies in Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and Africa have been through industrialization and become rapidly integrated into the global value chain. Work and employment relations in these economies have been an important factor for foreign direct investment in their development path. Transnational companies (TNCs) have also created various types of employment strategies, depending upon their own business needs, the regulations, capabilities, skills, infrastructure, and of course industrial relations climate in host. When it comes to employment relations and labor standards in emerging economies, the state and other institutional players like NGOs, transnational labor movements, and even TNCs themselves play a crucial role in regulating labor standards and building capabilities. We invite papers on the following research themes and topics, especially from scholars in developing and emerging economies and those with a comparative research approach.

  • Different types of work and employment relations in emerging economies in terms of informality, community basis, workplace governance, and motives for businesses and work
  • Differences/similarities in work and employment relations between emerging economies and industrialized economies in terms of employment contracts, ownership of capital, firm size, value chains, skill level, wage level, and autonomy
  • Evaluation of the models of employment relations in emerging economies in terms of employee voice, wages, working conditions and better chances for improvement
  • The role of each actor (e.g. trade unions, employee representatives, employers, the self-employed, and stakeholder communities) and especially the state in setting and regulating wages, employment, and work rules, and the varied roles played by the state in different economies
  • The mechanism of regulating wages and working conditions such as a national minimum wage, labor laws, the corporate social responsibility policies of MNCs, and international standards or guidelines (e.g. ILO conventions, OECD MNC guidelines)

Track 6: The Future of Work

The world of work has been changing rapidly and fundamentally. The so-called fourth industrial revolution led by technological innovations such as autonomous vehicles, the internet of things, robots, and artificial intelligence has called into question the long-standing belief that human intellectual competencies are the irreplaceable raison d'être of labor. This raises both hopes and concerns: hopes for self-realization and the material and psychological satisfaction of people, and concerns due to higher levels of unemployment and the polarization of working populations. What can be the new social norms and governance systems in work which will benefit all, including corporations, governments, and workers, and result in socio-economic sustainability worldwide? And what, instead of socially connected work, could be a building block for personal and social identity? This track invites papers on the following future of work issues:

  • Direction of work change
    • Jobs which will disappear and jobs which will be created
    • Effects of technological advances on skills and labor processes
    • Education and training needs as an effective response to changing work
  • Expected results of work change
    • Prospects for future employment practices
    • Changes in the power balance between employees and employers
    • The effect on worker segmentation and inequality at the national and international level
  • The governance of work
    • The nature of new social norms on work in the future
    • The need for a new work governance system
    • The role of employers, workers, and governments in an effective governance of work
  • Changes in the meaning of work to individuals and societies
    • Work and the human need for self-realization
    • Changes in the role of work as a key component of individual identity
    • The effect of dispersed work on social networks and social identity
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