The evaluation of labour markets and of particular jobs ought to be sensitive to a plurality of benefits and burdens of work. We use the term 'the goods of work' to refer to those benefits of work that cannot be obtained in exchange for money and that can be enjoyed mostly or exclusively in the context of work. Drawing on empirical research and various philosophical traditions of thinking about work we identify four goods of work: 1) attaining various types of excellence; 2) making a social contribution; 3) experiencing community; and 4) gaining social recognition. Our account of the goods of work can be read as unpacking the ways in which work can be meaningful.
The distribution of the goods of work is a concern of justice for two conjoint reasons: First, they are part of the conception of the good of a large number of individuals. Second, in societies without an unconditional income and in which most people are not independently wealthy, paid work is non-optional and workers have few, if any, occasions to realize these goods outside their job. Taking into account the plurality of the goods of work and their importance for justice challenges the theoretical and political status quo, which focuses mostly on justice with regard to the distribution of income. We defend this account against the libertarian challenge that a free labour market gives individuals sufficient options to realise the goods of work important to them, and discuss the challenge from state neutrality. In the conclusion, we hint towards possible implications for today’s labour markets.