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A Human Is Not a Resource

Author

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  • Ewan McGaughey
  • Centre for Business Research

Abstract

The language of "human resource management" treats people as a means to an end. Three core tenets of human resource literature are that it is desirable to have (1) labour "flexibility" and "mobility" in a peripheral workforce, (2) individual (not social) responsibility for employment searching, and (3) a manager’s right to manage, without collective accountability. This article explores the cutting edge evidence, which show human resource theory harms productivity and human development. It explores the effects of "HR" in the UK, EU and international regulation on atypical work, full employment, and union voice. Where human resource beliefs have pervaded the most, the outcomes are the worst: lower productivity, higher unemployment, more inequality, less growth. To advance prosperity, economic risks must be distributed to the organisations best placed to bear them, people must have security to plan for the future, and people must have real votes at work through collective bargaining and corporate governance. Many people who themselves work in "HR" strongly disagree with the essential elements of their discipline. They support equality, security and democracy at work. Just as international law once affirmed that "labour is not a commodity", for social justice in the 21st century there must be a conviction that a human is not a resource. "HR" must change in name and substance, to advance human development and human rights.

Suggested Citation

  • Ewan McGaughey & Centre for Business Research, 2018. "A Human Is Not a Resource," Working Papers wp497, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cbr:cbrwps:wp497
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    Keywords

    Human Resource Management; Labour Is Not a Commodity; Social Justice; Job Security; Full Employment; Trade Unions; Votes at Work; Productivity; Human Rights;

    JEL classification:

    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • K31 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Labor Law
    • L21 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Business Objectives of the Firm
    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure
    • L52 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Industrial Policy; Sectoral Planning Methods
    • P1 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism
    • F16 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Trade and Labor Market Interactions

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