Professional education in the context of precarious work

Image: Robert Rauschenberg


Preface to the recently released book by Aldo Vieira Ribeiro

Human societies, from the end of the 1998th century to the present, have experienced an accelerated process of political, economic, social and cultural transformation. This process was accelerated by the combination of a double movement of worldwide scope, called globalization and technological revolution. The first concerns the complex processes of interdependence of national economies that impact politics and culture at a global level, and emerged in the era of great navigations and maritime discoveries (HIRST and THOMPSON, 1970), which intensified after World War II. worldwide and became globalized after the XNUMXs. The second movement, condenses all the mutations that occurred through technique, an art of craft, associated with information science with the potential to transmit trillions of data in a way courses via Internet, through worldwide networked supercomputers. In the XNUMXst century, globalization and technology, especially information technology, became interdependent and the engine of changes in contemporary societies, especially changes in the world of work, that is, the type and form of tasks to be performed by individuals .

It is in this context of major changes driven by globalized technology that this work offers a unique contribution to the debate on the current labor market. In order to express the magnitude of the transformations of the capitalist system in the lives of workers, this book analyzes two aspects of the development process of capitalism: the work carried out in series, known as the Fordist/Taylorist pattern, which began in the 20s and 30s of the last century, but is in crisis agonizing at the present time; and insertion of another pattern of capitalist accumulation, called by Harvey (2007) of flexible accumulation, anchored in a new capitalist industrial production system, developed in Japanese companies in the 1990s, known as productive restructuring, or Toyotism. Productive restructuring, broadly speaking, has shown itself to be a process of re-signification of the capitalist system with greater capacity for income concentration in the hands of high-income sectors in industrialized and now globalized societies.

Looking retrospectively at the reality of workers throughout the Fordist capitalist accumulation regime, it is noticeable, on the one hand, several advantages, such as: conquest of labor rights and freedom of union organization; and achievement of a salary adjustment policy, social benefits and better living conditions. On the other hand, they did not manage the work performed, there was no process of interaction between employee and employer and they worked under a rigid system of routines and execution of tasks that caused them serious health problems. This rigid standard strengthened and dynamized the world capitalist system, increased the antagonism between capital and work, forged the working class and competitive globalized transnational companies, until it cooled down in the 1970s, and gave way to the expansion of a new productivist industrial standard, the Toyotism.

Toyotism, an industrial production pattern that began in Japan, combined with computerized information technology, reversed the prerogatives of the Fordist world of work and provided workers with a new vision of work in the capitalist system. In this new production pattern, a significant part of work is precarious: labor rights were suppressed, wages are based on hours of work and goals (tasks) fulfilled, there is a high requirement for worker qualification, preference for versatile workers (multifunctional and disorganized), process of integration of man and machine in the production process and incessant search for efficiency and results. Toyotism spreads a discourse in which the lack of formal employment is a consequence of the worker's low professional qualification. Unemployment, in this case, would be the responsibility of the worker himself, who is not qualified to meet increasingly specialized demands offered in the labor market. This discourse, therefore, constitutes the ideology of productive restructuring, whose strategy is the restructuring of the capitalist system into a neoliberal, competitive, free-market economic system with an entrepreneurial spirit, in which the costs of formal work are imposed on workers and are increasingly automates the production of necessary and superfluous goods for human life.

In the midst of this debate, the central focus of this work is precisely the mid-level technical professional education of young workers, who seek insertion in the scarce labor market, offered by the Federal Institute in the interior of the state of Piauí. Since 2008, the Federal Institutes have constituted a Federal Network of Professional and Technological Education that covers practically the entire national territory, offer several courses in the field of secondary and higher level professional education, carry out a strategy of providing more qualified labor to the labor market and contribute to the reduction of unemployment, especially in the young population. But this formative process does not forge Toyotism's flexible production discourse, on the contrary, it absorbs it in the professional formation of the young entrepreneurial worker.

This governmental action exposes the Brazilian State which, in recent decades, has assimilated the logic of flexible accumulation in relation to public labor policies and bet on professional education (qualification) as a possible solution to the problem of unemployment. Consciously (or unconsciously) the Brazilian State assumes the discourse of flexible accumulation, cemented in neoliberalism theories, in which unemployment is a consequence of the low qualification of the Brazilian worker and formal job openings are not filled because they have low qualifications. This discourse of making workers accountable for their unemployment exempts the State and the government from responsibility for creating and promoting work and employment policies with opportunity for all. At the same time, productive restructuring, with the advance of work automation, pushes millions of workers to informal work where they occupy their time with subsistence, degraded, precarious and poorly paid. The influence of this ideology, in the Brazilian State, can be seen in the labor reform of 2017 and in the extinction of the Ministry of Labor, created in 1930, in the first moment of the government of President Jair Messias Bolsonaro (2019 …).

Since the analyzes of Karl Marx (1989), in the XNUMXth century, on the capitalist system, the ability of the capitalist system to regenerate and increase the workers' dilemma through automation and the extraction of absolute and relative surplus value has been evidenced. In today's times of automated work, home office, of time online and from the internet of things, relative added value reaches a maximum level and results from an efficient business strategy. The work on screen, therefore, scrutinizes this reality, shows the trajectory of education and professional qualification policies used over the years until the flexible accumulation pattern and the different discourses in relation to work and employment policies in contemporary times appear.

The work also offers an important contribution to case studies in the field of sociology of work, presents the perceptions of graduates of the Concomitant/Subsequent Technical courses in Administration and Clothing at the Federal Institute of Piauí (IFPI) – Campus of the City of Piripiri – located in the north region of the state and their insertion in the local labor market. It seeks to answer to what extent former students of Business Administration and Clothing courses in that city, through their professional training, succeed in the local job market. In this sense, the book investigates the labor supply at the local level and indicates that the supply depends on the dynamics and functioning of the local labor market. However, employment in small towns in Piauí is almost always scarce, depending on local development niches and the capacity to generate enterprises that foster formal work.

The limits of employability, in the case of this research, force graduates from vocational courses to follow other paths, such as continuing higher education, in the hope that the higher the professional training, the greater the chances of obtaining a job, in the wake of the accumulation ideology flexible. Roughly speaking, former students of professional qualification courses who do not opt ​​for specialization, as the work indicates, seek a way out in the world of entrepreneurship, individual business, in an expectation (almost illusory) of building their own successful business and, who knows, become successful businessman. Entrepreneurship, the personal ability to think about and carry out income-generating projects, has become a discourse for converting unemployed workers into entrepreneurs in search of success, in order to extract an income, no matter how small. This discourse gains space in debates in the world of work and in the practical reality of thousands of Brazilian workers, who see entrepreneurship as a way to occupy their time and obtain financial income. But, in reality, entrepreneurship is more of a challenge for workers, because by becoming micro-entrepreneurs they will be part of a competitive market where the biggest entrepreneurs are more structured and businesses are always ahead of the micro-entrepreneurs who, most of the time, follow at a disadvantage. Without entering into the debate (to save space) of the forced advantageous discourse that the entrepreneur is his own boss, and therefore, self-governing.

Finally, the work dilemmas mentioned here expose the microdynamics of newcomers in the race for employability, through professional qualification, at a time when the Brazilian labor market and public employment policies little (or not at all) value the worker. On the contrary, the struggle between capital and labor has shown that labor (the worker's side) is almost always at a disadvantage, but this can be different, it depends on the workers' ability to organize and on the construction of a new production model that, undoubtedly, it will also imply a new proposal for professional education.

*Francisco Mesquita de Oliveira Professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Piauí (UFPI).



Aldo Vieira Ribeiro. Professional education in the context of precarious work. São Paulo, Editora Dialética, 2021, 332 pages.


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