May 1st, Labor Day: Having a Decent Job
If machines replace people's work every day, the future of workers looks complicated, says Roberto Álvarez Manzo, on the occasion of May 1st, Labor Day.
Having a decent job, safe conditions, adequate working hours, and equal access for men and women are part of the labor rights won by workers, which, however, are in decline, says Roberto Alvarez Manzo, academic of the Faculty of Higher Education (FES) Acatlan.
Other challenges are added, such as the elimination of child labor and exploitative conditions, difficulties to establish truly representative union organizations, or making effective the right to rest and disconnection, says the expert.
According to INEGI's National Survey on Occupation and Employment (February 2022), the economically active population in our country was 58.2 million people, three million higher than in the same month of 2021, which implied a participation rate of 58.7 percent.
It is not only about having a decent job but also about how production is organized in companies and who ends up taking its dividends; here we see a complicated situation in which employees have lengthened their working hours or taken more than one job to have access to an income that moderately allows them to live with dignity, points out Álvarez Manzo on the occasion of Labor Day, which is commemorated on May 1.
In his book The Fatigue Society, Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han explains that we are going through a period in which there is a great incentive for self-exploitation: regardless of whether the employer has demanded, an element that has socioculturally developed is success for achievement, for a job performance that leads us to a dynamic of high self-demand and that leads us to a chronic situation of fatigue.
"This is one of the great challenges at work: that people are recognized in their jobs not only because they are satisfied with what they do, but also because this is compatible with a life of their own, which goes beyond just working," the academic points out.
To this complex situation is added one more element: technology. "I see it as difficult for technological development to stop. There are new inventions, gadgets, and prototypes, and this progress involves a fabulous amount of money and interest. If everyday machines replace more and more of the tasks that people perform, the future of workers looks complicated".
Consequently, he clarifies, there are more challenges for them, of qualification to be able to operate within the new technologies; and for people to be inserted in the labor market.
We must not forget that there is a digital divide consisting between having access to new technologies and being familiar with them. Consequently, a sector of the population could be in a serious predicament, warns Álvarez Manzo.
In this sense, employment in its traditional form is being depleted and entering into crisis. Since the pandemic, new work modalities, such as the home office, have gained strength, he emphasizes.
According to the Labor Thermometer of the OCCMundial platform, 55 percent of the people who participated in a survey released last November would be willing to quit their jobs if they do not have a hybrid scheme or work at a home modality, as long as they have another employment option; only 21 percent would stay and adapt to what the company establishes because their main concern is their age.
According to Roberto Álvarez, this could be due to socio-cultural patterns among the new generations, the precarious conditions of employment (two or three jobs could be taken care of from home and have a higher income), or the fact that people seek to have their own life; "commuting involves a lot of time, insecurity or stress, and many want to do without that part".
However, he points out, it is necessary to consider who can have access to the home office; there are groups, such as the informal, precarious, who lack this possibility. "We must not fail to make visible that sector of the population that cannot aspire to telework due to poverty, marginality or vulnerability".
The activity at a distance, in addition, has left behind the labor legislation, which must be updated. Although modifications have been made (such as the reforms to Article 311 of the Federal Labor Law on telework), there are still challenges in the matter because "the reality is changing, especially if we talk about technological issues".
It is legislated according to reality, at a given time, so there must be mechanisms to address specific situations for each type of telecommuting, based on how it is organized or executed. The regulation must be dynamic and flexible or think of other regulatory modalities that may be appropriate for this case, the expert believes.
Commemoration of May 1st, Labor Day
In 1886 thousands of workers in Chicago, the United States, tired of being exploited, decided to defend their labor rights and took to the streets to demand respect for an eight-hour workday, the right to strike, freedom of expression, and association, as well as fair work and pay. Several died in the attempt.
After these events, the Second International - an organization formed in 1889 by socialist and labor parties that wished to coordinate their activity - gave a great impulse to the efforts to make May 1 also known as International Workers' Day.
In Mexico, Labor Day was celebrated for the first time in 1913, when 20,000 workers marched and demanded that the government implement the eight-hour workday. In 1923, President Alvaro Obregón decreed May 1 as Labor Day, but it was not until 1925 that the commemoration was officially established.
With the promulgation of the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States (1917), workers' rights were recognized. Article 123 of the Magna Carta establishes some of these guarantees. The Federal Labor Law was also created to regulate labor relations.