The fading scope of labour – remarks about the lost rationale of a common term
Work and labour describe activities with a redistributional and a reproductive component. In addition, the terms have gained the function of creating social status and self-esteem. This paper argues that the shifts on the labour market during the past decades question both the redistributive and the reproductive functions of labour. An increasing number of activities are taking place both in paid and unpaid settings simultaneously. And the productivity of employed persons, particularly in the growing management sector, is increasingly difficult to judge. Moreover, the strong social esteem of paid work has led to economic misjudgements, inefficient political measures and consequences for our individual well-being. While it would be helpful to speak of paid and unpaid activities instead of labour, it is likely that the term will continue to be used due to its esteem-generating function.
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