For most people work is one of the most important activities in their lives. This is not only because work is the main source of income for the majority of the population, but also because work has important other functions, such as (full) inclusion in society, the structuring of time, self-respect and self-development, and the allocation of power. Work also plays an important societal role as a source of welfare and prosperity and the basis for the funding of public services and provisions. As a consequence of trends such as globalisation, digitalisation, financialisation, ageing, immigration, flexibilisation and the transition to a sustainable economy, the way that work is conducted and organised in our society is rapidly changing. The standard work pattern of the second half of the twentieth century – the permanent fulltime job in a large hierarchical and often bureaucratic organisation, mainly performed by the male breadwinner – is no longer the standard but has been replaced by a great variety of employment relations. Some of these new employment relations are characterised by less favourable terms of employment and less employment and income protection compared with the former standard of permanent and full-time employment.
This changing character of work and of the labour market raises questions about the value of work (both for individuals and for society as a whole), the regulation of work, and the role that various societal actors (such as the state, trade unions and employers associations, but also new collective actors) play in shaping work in the twenty-first century. These questions are at the heart of the research programme of AIAS-HSI.
Three components characterise most of the research that AIAS-HSI conducts, viz.: