Precarization in the IT sector

We often think that certain job occupations are more exposed to precarization, but in reality, there are no exceptions. Modern capitalist society is constantly striving to introduce workplace flexibility. When we first heard about flexibility we thought it was something that would make a worker’s life easier, but it turned out to be intended to make life easier for employers. Laws began to be enacted to protect employers and allow them to manipulate to increase their capital. But even now we think that if we choose our professional occupation carefully we won’t be affected by this new uncertain way of work and life. We think that if we learn hard and constantly upgrade we will be irreplaceable. With that thought, we start the race against time. We want to achieve everything fast, to finish the assignments ahead of time, to show how capable we are just to be able to keep our job. All this rush starts at the beginning of our studies. When we decide what we want to be in life, we work very hard to become competitive in that field to one day find a job that will provide us with a good and secure future. But in modern society, this is becoming impossible. It is increasingly difficult for young people from different areas to find a secure job where they will be paid well. Many employers use them as a cheap but well-qualified workforce.

Software engineers are not excluded from this process of exploitation. Petar graduated in software engineering at the American College in Skopje and in an interview, he told us about his internship and work experience. Although he was studying at a private university, he told me that they did not have an internship, which does not make them very different from the state universities. Therefore, he had to find an internship on his own, which would give him at least a small insight into the work from a practical point of view, not only theoretically. “I started with an internship when I was in my second year in college. I applied for the internship, did a couple of tests and exams and after 4 months I got the call that I will start in the IT department at ‘Kromberg and Schubert’ a big factory in Bitola, N. Macedonia that works for the automobile industry.” Although the company was large and had 7,000 employees, the conditions that were offered to him were poor. Supervisors addressed him only with orders related to work, the salary was very low, relations with colleagues were almost non-existent. But despite that, at first, he was satisfied. „ At the beginning, I was satisfied, the work was overwhelming and I have a lot of stuff to learn, which I liked. But after a while, you sort of get a lot of repetitive tasks which are starting to become boring.” This sentence accurately reflects the firms’ approach to young interns. In the beginning, certain tasks are given to the young intern, but unfortunately, the same tasks remain until the end of the program, which leaves no room for further upgrading and advancement. Even after completing the internship, young people do not have the impression that they have learned and progressed a lot. Regarding the salary, Peter told us that it was not commensurate with the work he was doing. “I worked in three shifts, six days a week, sometimes even on Sundays, and didn’t even receive a minimum wage. I was not satisfied with that at all. After completing my internship I was offered to stay and work at the company. My tasks were the same as those of employees in the IT sector, but the offered salary was four times lower than that of my colleagues.” Because of this, he did not accept the job offer and focused on the last year of his studies. After graduation, he started looking for a job, but even though he could show that he went to an internship during his studies, his employers did not offer him employment. He was initially forced to accept an internship lasting at least three months. “The companies offered me low-paid internships again with the promise that if I do well in the first three months I will get a job contract. But how can I survive three months with an income that is not enough for food, let alone rent and bills? This approach of the employers puts us in a position where after graduation we still have to depend on our parents. But I had no choice. I accepted to work in an IT company in Prilep, which worked for the American market. I did everything I was given, I did every job that the regular staff did not want or could not do. But after the expiration of the first three months, instead of getting a contract and a salary increase, I only received a notification that if I want to stay I have to work under the same conditions for another three months.” Peter is just one of many who, to start his career, had to accept working under underestimated conditions. “At first I did not think this was exploitation. I thought that as a beginner I had to start from the lowest level and I accepted that. But I soon realized that this is how employers teach us to listen and accept everything, just to be able to survive. I hope that the current students will gather courage and fight against this way of exploiting the young workforce.”

Unfortunately, young workers are most exposed to exploitation and precarization. To survive, they accept to work based on non-standard contracts, overtime, and unpaid. Instead of companies offering good internships where students will have the opportunity to study, upgrade, and get paid well enough to live normally, they are only aiming to use them as a cheap but well-qualified workforce. I think that now is time to start collectively fighting against, not just accepting!

Sara Velkoska