updated: 1 september 2005

WORKS's overall research objective
The overall objective of the WORKS project is to improve our understanding of changes in work in the knowledge-based society, their driving forces and their implications for the use of knowledge and skills, for flexibility and for the quality of life. In particular, new forms of work organisations will be analysed taking account of global value chain restructurings and regional institutional contexts.

This overall objective encompasses four key thematical issues and several related research questions.

Changes in work organisations from the perspective of global restructuring of value chains
One of the underlying assumptions of WORKS is that the changes in work organisation can only be understood fully in the context of a global restructuring of value chains, entailing a simultaneous decomposition and recomposition of sectors, organisations and labour processes. A complex array of drivers of these restructuring trends can be identified, in particular the globalisation of markets, the liberalisation of trade, the development and spread of new information and communications technologies, the deregulation of labour markets and the marketisation of the public sector.

Changes in use of knowledge and skills and different ways of achieving flexibility
The changes in work organisation and at the workplace, accrued from the new global division of labour, are accompanied by (and in some cases enabled by) the codification of skills and knowledge leading simultaneously to new forms of flexible and autonomous 'knowledge work' but also to new forms of Taylorism. This can result in a dual process of decomposition and recomposition of skills and occupational identities and to different ways of achieving flexibility.

Changes in the use of time and occupational identities and implications for the quality of life of individuals

Because work organisation is shaped interactively both by structural forces and by the agency of individuals at a local level. It is necessary to combine the study of organisations with the study of individuals. The appearance on the labour market of new groups and the changing patterns of labour market behaviour are decisive factors for the social impacts of changes in work, which affect groups differentially according to their specific social positions, gender, ethnicity, age, educational background and other social variables. Occupational identities are blurring, professional trajectories more uncertain and individuals are confronted with the need for a different time use. These changes can have a deep impact on the quality of life.

Social dialogue and the regional institutional context

The 'knowledge-based society' cannot be seen as a single undifferentiated global entity. Regional and national institutions continue to contribute to distinctive trajectories, thus rendering it necessary to carry out comparative research and develop explanatory models for differing regional development paths and to consider what this means for the European context. This considerable heterogeneity within Europe of skill supply, levels of employment, welfare systems, and economic sectors makes it difficult to understand the factors underlying economic restructuring and to examine their quantitative and qualitative impact on working conditions and the quality of life.