Strategies and processes for improvements in job quality and
small enterprise development must take cognisance of the context in which small
enterprises operate. This includes their relationship with larger enterprises,
their participation in networks and the communities in which they are located.
This chapter presents practical experiences that small enterprises face in
relation to job quality. It identifies a number of factors that influence the
improvement of the quality of employment provided by small enterprises.
There are indications that qualitative aspects of work and the
environment may be increasing in economic significance as individual enterprises
and whole economies seek ways of meeting new competitive requirements. Recent
years have witnessed a regime of continuous change as enterprises downsize on a
regular basis, outsource, introduce flatter organisational models, promote team
working, restructure supply chains and form new kinds of network relationships.
They also use a range of new forms of flexible employment contracts. Thus, new
forms of industrial organisation and competition strategies are creating new
contexts, possibilities, and challenges.
Competition on a simple cost basis, typically associated with
low labour costs, is still common. However, increasing globalisation has shown
that in many industries, regions and countries these are of transitory advantage
and are not sustainable in the longer term. Thus, many enterprises, and indeed
whole local economies, are looking for ways of competing in the long term.
Instead, they seek to maintain price competitiveness through increased
productivity. In addition, they recognise the advantages of innovation and
improving the quality and finish of their products. The benefits of superior
design and fashion content are recognised, as are better service and greater
flexibility and the speed and reliability of