Getting that bread


The 8-hour work day isn’t some natural truth, but a result of a long bloody struggle for labour rights since the 1880s. Its achievements include 2-day weekends, social security and pensions, and so much more. But these achievements are being undermined despite the Europe-wide labour shortage. One of the culprits is the gig economy model, which promises felxibility but really offers precarity. 

Worker’s representation has been withering in the past few decades worldwide. Formerly self-explanatory labour protections have been rolled back all over Europe, and some states have legalized child labour in the US.

The gig economy has been undermining traditional employment for a long time, but covid lockdowns exacerbated this. It also left billions of people who did not have the privilege to work from home, or to work at all, to deal with the tragic health consequences of the virus. 

Young people in the EU were among the hardest hit populations by the pandemic, experiencing job loss, financial instability, and mental health issues. In 2020, the EU witnessed a 2.8% drop in youth employment, and it’s still recovering. This effect was worst in Portugal, Bulgaria, Latvia, Czechia and Poland. So an emerging generation of sceptics are asking the question: what are we even working for? 

With the nature of work drastically changing since the pandemic, Gen Z and millennials find themselves working much more than their fellow boomers in comparable positions, and for much less. One research shows that Gen Z are less likely to seek promotions because they don’t want to work overtime, and are less likely to stick with an unssatisfactory workplace, especially when they have fewer family obligations than previous generations did at the same age. 

And the gendered division of labour still renders women underrepresented in the labour market, with care responsibilities unpaid and unrecognized. In 2022, the European Commission presented the European Care Strategy, which promises to support informal carers and impose higher standards for care workers. When it comes to care work, the demographic is often migrant women, who are already  the highest target of trafficking and labour exploitation. There is a suffocating shortage of care workers all across Europe, yet, migration policies are becoming more and more exclusionary. 

We thank the IWM Library for hosting the discussion!


Maryna Tverdostup is an Economist at the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (WIIW) and a country expert for Estonia. Her research interests cover diverse labour market issues, including gender inequalities, labour mobility, and immigrants’ integration.

Péter Csunderlik to fill us in. He is a historian, assistant professor at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, and research fellow at the Institute of Political History in Budapest. His areas of interest include left-wing radical movements, the memory of the Soviet Republic, and 19th to 20th-century social histories. He joins us online.

Petra Hlaváčková is a Milena Jesenská journalism Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences here in Vienna, researching the paradoxical liberation of women under socialism through the examples of female architects in Czechoslovakia.

This talk show is a Display Europe production: a content sharing platform offering content on politics, culture, community, and much more. 


This programme is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union and the European Cultural Foundation.

Importantly, Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.


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