Essay on Social Importance of Work and Occupations – Work and Occupation have assumed utmost social importance today. They have not only social importance but also economic, psychological and human significance.
(i) They Satisfy the Material Needs of Man:
Work and Occupations are a fundamental necessity in life. Society depends upon the production of food, machine, various utensils and articles of daily use, newsprint, etc. The very existence of man depends upon the production of necessities of life. Work and Occupations are the means of producing them.
(ii) They Satisfy Man’s Social and Psychological Needs Also:
Work is not the same thing as physical effort or the expenditure of energy. What is and what is not work is socially defined. It is not a quality inherent in any particular act. It is true that without the achievement of certain level of production, society could not survive.
However, there are also the leisure classes, the non-working people. In reality, even the leisure classes do some kind of work. Those who are able to live without work normally do work, because, work gives them a valued status, in society in other people’s eyes, and therefore, in their eyes.
Work and occupations meet certain obligations, to be seen as significant people, and to feel significant to them. Much work, however, is far removed from food production or even from direct production of commodities at all.
“With the growth of service industries in the modern economy, fewer and fewer people work at producing material objects and more and more work at manipulating paper and people”— Peter Worsley. Thus, people work more today to satisfy social and psychological needs.
(iii) People Work Not Just for Money:
It is wrong to assume that man always works or is in some occupation or the other, just for money. It is true that in a subsistence economy money, or its equivalent economic reward is of paramount importance-life in fact, depends on it.
In this case money is a key motivating factor. But when the situation improves and money becomes sufficient or abundant, it loses its importance. Security, good working conditions, opportunity for promotion, mental satisfaction, status, etc., usually become more important.
As Gisbert writes: “Money, or the economic factor while remaining always a reason, may not act at all in particular circumstance, either as a motive or as an incentive”.
(iv) Work-Occupation and Mental Health:
Work and occupations have great therapeutic qualities for mental illness. Men have often resorted to external occupations in order to keep the mind healthy and free from mischief.
Dr. H. Simon, the Director of Gutersloh Mental Hospital in Germany, recommended as a remedy for mental patients meaningful work in order to link them with their community and break the isolation both internal and external, with which the mental patients are threatened. He stresses in particular-“The necessity of finding an occupation especially suited to the patient as an individual.”
Among other qualities of work, “it may also be stressed that it is not only a bond or social union, but also an important requisite for mental healik. It has been proved to be one of the best remedies to break the mental isolation of the patient by renewing the social contacts with his fellow- men.”—J. Gisbert.
(v) Work in Industrial Society is a Major Key to Social Placement and Evaluation:
When we ask the question-what is he? – The kind of answer we normally expect may be-He is an engineer or He is an advocate, or He is a professor. Such answers reveal not only the kind of technical function a person fulfils in society, but they also indicate the social placement or status of an individual.
Hence in most studies of social stratifications Occupation is used as a criterion of social class or status. People do, in fact, use occupation as a means of classifying or ranking people. Thus a man’s work may affect his social standing.
(vi) Work has become ‘Central’ to the Life of Man Today:
Work is central to the life of man in that it gives the worker a sense of identity, not just in the eyes of others but in his own eyes. Work may be a source of satisfaction to the individual even where it is not necessarily recognised by others as important, valuable or desirable.
Marx said that work should always be an expression of personality and never become just an instrument of livelihood. Workers should never be made to feel themselves to be mere cogs in a complicated machine, performing unsatisfying tasks.
He forewarned that man would become dehumanised if inhuman conditions are thrust upon his work and workplace. If a man has to work under such conditions, it may be just a means to an end. If a person loses occupations or becomes unemployed, he loses not only money but, more than that, self-respect and the respect of others.
(vii) The Moral Evaluation of Work:
The concept of work is invested with varying degrees of moral evaluation. Jean Calvin, the founder of Calvinism, emphasised that work is not only an economic need but also a moral necessity.
Calvin said that man, in order to prove worthy of God’s Creation, was morally obliged to work; that is, to work for the production of wealth. Wealth, he asserted, was not for enjoyment but for the investment, that is, for further production of wealth.
Accordingly idleness and its synonyms are not merely the state of non-working but are, in fact, also redolent with moral disapproval. The Marxists have also stressed that “Work is the basis of social life, a co-operative and creative activity that lifts man above the animals.”
(viii) The Social Evaluation of Work:
It must be admitted that different kinds of work are valued differently by different people. Within a single society there is no general agreement as to what constitutes real work and who the real workers are.
Some kinds of work are regarded as more fulfilling or more dignified. Thus the terms vocation, career or profession, or occupation, all carry slightly higher prestige than the word job.
The clerks may show their distaste towards mere physical toil, (that is, manual labour) in terms of Plebian resentment of obligatory back breaking labour. Similarly, the manual workers may have their resentment against clerical workers.
(ix) Work and Unemployment:
The role that work plays in the life of many may easily be seen in case of unemployment. “Men dread unemployment, not merely because it means loss of money, but mostly because it means loss of life.
To find oneself without work in society, without the social connections and hopes rooted in work, is like experiencing the withering away of one’s very life.”— P. Gisbert. Loss of work is acknowledged by modern psychologists as a toxic condition which demands for its rehabilitation special remedies social as well as psychological. “Permanent unemployment is a real threat to mental health “.
The popular saying an idle mind is a devil’s workshop is meaningful in this context. Probably it is because of this, the time of retirement is looked upon with so much dread by ageing men.
For some of them the shock is such that they never recover from it in their lives. The abnormally high rate of death within the first year of retirement in many nations is a clear proof of this fact.