• The Precariousness of the Employable. Highly Skilled Professionals in Contemporary Romania

    The workforce around the world has been subjected to undeniable crises in the last years, visible in the high levels of unemployment and in the protests that have been mushrooming globally. It is little wonder in this context that the concept of employability has received increasing attention not only from its promoters that are ubiquitous among policy makers and governors, but also from critical scholars trying to pin down the tensions and dangers of current employment (for example Berglund, 2013, Chertkovskaya , 2013, Vesterberg, 2013, de Sá Mello da Costa and Saraiva, 2012, Cremin, 2010). Several recent articles such as those in the special issue of Ephemera have examined both theoretically and empirically important aspects of this consequential reality (see for example Berglund, 2013, Chertkovskaya , 2013, Vesterberg, 2013,). Best understood as a technology for disciplining the workers through shifting the responsibility of the outcome and conditions of employment from the state and the employer to the worker herself (Chertkovskaya et al, 2013), employability promises to be a fruitful entry point in any attempt to critically grasp the current situation.

    This paper is intended as a contribution to the recent discussions about the consequences of the radical switch towards an individual(centered understanding of work and employment. I will use the case of highly skilled workers in a middle scale city in Romania, Cluj, in order to empirically describe the types of situations, choices and understandings that a labor market operating under the wider umbrella of employability result in. I will show that even for the most privileged categories of workers, those who manage to secure a relatively decent living for themselves, the framework of employability results in precarious situations. After a short review of the main strands of literature that has dealt with various aspects of the normative pressures that current workers are subjected to and the methodological considerations, I will proceed to an ethnographic description of the main tension lines in the career fields (Mayrhofer et al, 2003) of Information Technology and Human Resources employees. The description gives empirical flash to my argument that despite the variety of definitions and understandings that actors have of what career success, advancement and legitimate strategies are, they all share an understanding of themselves as workers who can increase the security of their livelihoods only by relying on themselves and their increased employability.

  • Personal Development and the Flexible Contracts: Depoliticized Class Struggles between Highly Skilled Workers and Manual Workers in Cluj

    In the midst of diminishing levels of aggregate demand for jobs at European level and and ”transitional unemployment”, employability promises also in Central Europe the freedom to choose between successive positions and transform them in learning experiences within a career field. The firm becomes increasingly unreliable in providing a stable position or even the prospects of advancement, but may offer the necessary support to enhance one’s” employability. In this paper I aim to better understand the relation between the employee and the firm by putting in doubt the classless imaginary of the employability discourse. Focussing on the employability narrative among highly skilled, skilled and unskilled workers in a middle scale city in Romania, Cluj, a second tire city in the urban hierarchy of Central Europe, I will question the very assumption that the whole issue of the employee-employer relation is a one-to-one relation between a person and the firm, without political consequences for the other employees. In this paper I explore the way employability works in producing new class tensions between the various fractions of the workers, following the classification effects of the self-development, self-bettering and self-education narratives.

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