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A Human Is Not a Resource (Presentation Slides)

18 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2017  

Ewan McGaughey

King's College London - School of Law

Date Written: September 9, 2017


The language of ‘human resource management’ treats people as a means to an end. This article shows the cutting edge evidence, that to advance human prosperity economic risks must be distributed to the organisations best placed to bear them, people must have security to plan for the future, and must have real voice at work. When human beings are seen as ‘resources’ to achieve other people’s goals, productivity and development is harmed, because people lose the motivation to contribute that comes through fair treatment. Many people working in ‘HR’ strongly disagree with three core tenets of human resource literature: (1) of labour ‘flexibility’ and ‘mobility’ in a peripheral workforce, (2) of individual not social responsibility for employment searching, and (3) of an unaccountable right to manage. Most people support equality, security and democracy at work. Just as it was necessary to affirm that ‘labour is not a commodity’, for social justice in the 21st century there must be a conviction that a human is not a resource. This article explores the effects of three core ‘human resource’ tenets in the UK, EU and international regulation on atypical work, full employment, and union voice. Where human resource beliefs have pervaded the most, the outcomes for prosperity have been the worst: lower productivity, higher unemployment, more inequality, and less growth. The root cause is the conceptual frame that a human is a resource. It must be resisted. ‘HR’ must change in name and substance, to advance human rights and development.

Keywords: Humans, Resources, Equality, Fairness, Justice, ILO, Commodity

Suggested Citation

McGaughey, Ewan, A Human Is Not a Resource (Presentation Slides) (September 9, 2017). Available at SSRN:

Ewan McGaughey (Contact Author)

King's College London - School of Law ( email )

Somerset House East Wing
London, WC2R 2LS
United Kingdom

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