A brief introduction of the Expanded Notion of Work (ENOW)
Victor Wong, PI (Community), CLAP for Youth @ JC
In a market economy such as Hong Kong, paid work or employment is what most people associate with the term “work”. The question is whether voluntary work and other forms of unpaid work should be understood as work rather than non-work.
In public economic discourses, unpaid care work and housework are being excluded from the domain of work. However, the value of a wide array of unpaid work or volunteering activities going on outside the family has not escaped the notice of policymakers, business corporations and non-governmental organizations. Rather than taking paid work and unpaid work as two dichotomies, there has been an outcry to develop an expanded notion of work.
The world of paid work includes two main categories, i.e. employment, and work trials, trial business operation and training. The former encompasses full-time work, part-time work, self-employment, social entrepreneurship, etc., and the latter refers to various training and workplace programmes without an employment relationship, as well as business operation on a trial basis such as market stalls at Lunar New Year fair.
The world of unpaid work is conceptualized in our Project to have four major categories. The first one is vocational education and training, and the other refers to work exposure programmes, such as job visits, job tasting, job shadowing, internship delivered by a wide range of companies and organizations. Involving young people in this category of unpaid work is particularly considered by the government and the business world as being helpful and pragmatic for strengthening youth employability in the labour market.
Volunteering largely delivered in the third sector could be a valuable working experience for youth to get access to value-driven employment available in charities, NGOs, social enterprises, co-operatives, and even in business corporations which place an emphasis on corporate social responsibility and creating shared value.
Unpaid work, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, undertaken in non-organizational contexts, is understood as provisioning for self-care, family care, or neighborhood concern.
Last but not least, serious leisure theorized as an intensive and committed pursuit of a free-time activity such as hip hop, music, theatre performance, online gaming, cosplay, ball games, magic, handicrafts, etc., as well as other activist causes like heritage and environmental protection can provide youth a platform to explore their potential talents and express their core values.
Orchestrating together a wide variety of work experiences understood in a broader sense, young people are enabled to find new modes of social engagement and re-integration. In our practice framework, unpaid work as an “alternative type of work” is constructed to complement paid work as a whole in its relevance for shedding light on informing young people’s career development and their contributions to others and to the community at large.
“To start where young people are” is to appreciate the context within which they deliver their unpaid care work, pursue their interests online or offline, and/or volunteer their efforts for helping others or social causes. This serves as a base where we can identify from youth the values, attitudes, skills and knowledge considered relevant for transferability and transformation for their career development along the wide spectrum and varieties of work, both paid and unpaid.
The ENOW as a perspective can help youth explore the interlocking relationship between different forms of work, as well as to enhance their meaningful engagement in their life-long career and learning journeys.