The so-called “post-growth” philosophy of work is gaining more and more momentum: it aims in particular to promote values other than paid work – such as health, social and environmental justice, and even freedom.
This trend occupies a central place in the work of Prof. Nicolas Bueno, professor of European and international law. As an expert on questions about the future of work and employment law, he studies the ways in which said law could support this development.
Question: What questions does work raise today?
Digitalisation is a source of great concern in the area of work today. For example, what will the future of our work be if humans are replaced by robots?
More and more people are also asking themselves: “Does my job make sense?” “Do I really have to work just to earn money or would I like to get more meaning through my work?”
What I would like to show is that employment law is currently not really set up to answer these questions.
Where does your interest in this topic come from?
My interest in employment law arose while working on specific cases in the textile industry.
I realised then what terrible working conditions the workers actually had.
The labour and employment law's response was: “You will have minimum pay conditions and minimum working conditions.”
I told myself that this could not be the long-term solution and that we had to promote another approach.
What are your objectives as a researcher?
I would like to show that, for more than a century, the labour and employment law has been based on a minimum approach by wanting to guarantee minimum rights. My aim is to show that a more positive approach ca be developement, for instance by granting more rights. Such an approach also means that the employement law must revaluate work.
How can revaluate work?
To place new value on work, we must understand that there are certain jobs in the employment market that are extremely productive and others that are very useful for society, but less paid. There must therefore be a debate on the value of work.
To give an example: a lawyer who defends a Peruvian community affected by river pollution is doing the same job as a lawyer who defends the company responsible for this pollution. But the difference in salaries is 1 to 10. This means that there is a problem with how work is valued and the way in which this value is reflected by wages.
What do you hope to achieve with your work?
What I would like to achieve with my research on employment law is that we truly ask ourselves questions regarding the value of work in society and for individuals.
What will the labour and employment law look like in the future?
In the future, if we think beyond just productivity, we can ask ourselves the following questions:
- Should we introduce a universal basic income that will allow people to do activities that might be more useful for society?
- How can we promote activities that are useful for society in a different way?
I try to find answers to these questions in my research. My objective is to help move forward the debate about the future of labour and employment law.