Socio-Technical Issues in Youth Employment in SMEs: The Case of the Furniture Sector in Turkey

Socio-Technical Issues in Youth Employment in SMEs: The Case of the Furniture Sector in Turkey

Emek Baris Kepenek (Science and Technology Policies Research Center (TEKPOL), Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3886-0.ch074
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This chapter investigates how technological developments implemented in the production processes and organizational structures of small and medium sized enterprises affect the skills and therefore the employment of young workers in these businesses. The furniture sector in the greater region of Ankara in Turkey is explored in this chapter because it is one of the fastest growing sectors in the new millennium, and the rate of youth employment is very high. Young workers face severe problems due to the technological developments and organizational changes occurring in these enterprises. Many of them are either removed from production processes or dismissed from the company. To have a decent job, the young generation working in this sector should not be alienated from the production process. It is claimed that this major problem of bias towards young workers can be solved by a proper education, which will greatly increase their technical skills.
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Technology/Skill Debate

More than ever before, the new technological improvements are used to effect critical changes in traditional institutional arrangements, including those affecting the division of labor, the organizational structures of labor and social relations, and skill requirements at all levels of occupational hierarchy. They are leading to new, more flexible, institutional arrangements that meet the demands of the new era of flexible production and consumption which totally alter labor relations: the share of the service sector in economic activities has become higher than the manufacturing (OECD, 1998; Grinth, 2005).

On the one hand, it is assumed that technical progress entails the employment of skilled workers (Piore & Sabel, 1984; Zuboff, 1988). Combined with the rapid pace of scientific and technological developments, the intensifying ‘global’ competition is said to require an organizational restructuring aiming at improvements in product quality, design, and innovation and thereby keeping a good place in the market. This in turn calls for a more adaptable, better educated workforce than was the case in the past. Such a workforce requires a raft of new core skills, competencies, or personal qualities to function effectively, such as ‘problem-solving,’ ‘teamwork,’ ‘communicative ability,’ ‘creativity,’ ‘initiative,’ and, above all, the ‘capacity for (lifelong) learning’ (Lloyd & Payne, 2002, p. 367).

On the other hand, there would be an inevitable displacement of low skilled workers within companies (Rifkin, 1996; Robinson, 2004). There have also been shifts in the work organization or the production processes, which actively affect the condition of the low skilled workforce: they have become dependent on the firms’ strategies, and for the most part, they are removed from the core of the production process and employed in very simple tasks. They tend to be kept unskilled and become an ordinary component in the management process of the firms (Braverman, 1974).

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