The fixed employment for an indefinite term previously typical of industrial society (bolstered by various privileges and safeguards) has been declining in the last decade or two. There has been an unstoppable spread by various forms of atypical employment, ranging from agency labour to remote working at back-up offices in the Third World. The article places atypical work within the conceptual frames of the new institutional school, emphasizing the diminishing human-capital specificity in employment relations. The 'loosening' of work - the decomposition in time and space of concentrated factory work - is a change comparable in importance to the appearance of the factory system. 'Loosened' work is a logical consequence of the development patterns in the knowledge economy. According to the logic of information technology, modules making up production processes (like the cells of economic organizations) gain independence; each leads a life of its own, with infinite combinatory possibilities opening up. The same trend appears in the work field, where firm, tied, static, 'safe' forms become changeable, 'fluid', dynamic and uncertain. This gives a boost to the knowledge economy, as nomadic employees take their expertise with them from one project, economic unit, country or region to the next. The other side of the coin, however, is that employees (other than key personnel with the fundamental competencies) become interchangeable, disposable, recallable and transferable - in a word, insecure.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.