Economic growth alone cannot ensure there will be jobs for everyone who wants to work. Long-term forecasts see unemployment rates declining only very slowly through the 1990s. A deep recession could wipe out even these modest gains.
Not only is there stubbornly high unemployment in North America, there is an increasing split between very high-paying and very low-paying jobs, and disparities between jobs that require very long hours of work and those that offer only sporadic part-time work. A growing contingency work force of dependent "contractors" work without the benefits and security of regular jobs.
Social critics and government task forces alike have suggested that reducing the working hours of full-time employees and redistributing work could be at least a partial solution to chronic widespread unemployment and employment imbalances. How such a reduction of work time could occur and whether it is feasible remain topics of considerable controversy, however.
This research prospectus outlines a plan for conducting a narrative analysis of the working time issue and for developing viable policy options that can be undertaken on a small scale as pilot projects. The research plan also calls for an email seminar and for an opinion survey using Q methodology. The proposed study will be of interest to policy professionals, journalists, scholars, social activists and concerned citizens.
Narrative policy analysis looks at the stories policy makers, advocates and the public use to make sense of complex, controversial and uncertain issues. It is an emerging approach that has been developed precisely to address policy issues that are resistant to conventional techniques.
Just to get the pot boiling (until the narrative analysis gets underway in earnest), I've compared Jeremy Rifkin's The End of Work with a traditional Italian folk tale, Strega Nona. Or, you may prefer to start with an overview of the research process.