Tonight on RTÉ One, Philip Boucher-Hayes looks at everything concerning Irish work; from gender pay gaps and the 'gig economy' to what we most value about our jobs and private versus public sector earnings.

We caught up with Philip to find out why he made the documentary and what we can expect to learn from it.

The one-hour documentary airs tonight - there is so much to cover about the Irish in the workplace, what did you decide to focus on?
Beating ourselves over the heads that we didn't ask RTÉ for a series so that we could do so much more than we have been able to fit into an hour!

Work is such an enormous part of our lives, yet we spend very little time trying to understand why we do it, what we are looking for out of it, how it rewards us, and so on.

So we've looked at a cross section of Irish society from the fast food cycle courier to the CEO of a multinational tech firm and asked them all the same questions.

The result is a kind of Room To Improve for people who are nosy about what other people do and what reward they get out of it. Which, let's face it, is all of us.

There has, thankfully, been a lot of talk about gender pay gaps in Ireland - how did you decide to tackle the issue?
By proving it's there and that it's real because I think a lot of people are in denial about it, saying that it doesn't happen in their business. We asked the CEOs we interviewed what they are doing about workplace equality, and they all say they are taking it very seriously. But, you know what, so did their predecessors and they didn't change very much.

I think there are three things that come out of the interviews and research that we did. First off, men like 'mini-mes'. They will promote, or show a preference, at salary review time to people like them ... i.e. men.

Secondly, as long as we are all obsessive about keeping our salaries secret, women will never know how much they should be asking for to achieve equality.

And thirdly I think in some schools we are still teaching girls to hang back and not sharpen those elbows. Don't hold your breath, people.

What-Are-You-Working-For
What Are You Working For? airs on RTÉ One tonight at 9:35pm

Tell us more about the 'gig economy'?
The PR spin is its supposed to be a win: win for employer and employee. Bosses don't have to keep costly staff on the payroll at times they don't have any use for them, employees get to pick and choose their hours and jobs. Work a gig, get paid, get lost.

And sure, if you're a highly skilled data analyst, for example, you can pick and choose your gigs. But I think the reality for the majority has been that this is an arrangement in which the bosses hold all the cards.

Job security, rights and entitlements are all tedious considerations when you're a millennial straight out of college, looking to conquer the world. It's only when you're too far gone down the route of permanently insecure employment in your thirties to back up and start again that you realise what is being withheld from you.

Previous generations used to value 'secure' jobs in semi-/state jobs - has this all changed?
I don't think we realise how profound a social revolution is taking place under our feet. Within a few years, the only people who will be getting mortgages will be civil and public servants.

The rights and entitlements that were taken for granted as going with any job, have evaporated and aren't coming back with the morning dew. 

The future of work is best characterised by three words: abroad, occasional and insecure.

I don't mean we will all be working abroad, clearly, we won't be, but we will have to be prepared to relocate at a moment's notice to follow the work. And it will be freelance and not full time.

Don't kid yourself, in spite of the honeyed words about valuing employees, companies still want them as cheap as possible and with as few rights as possible. I think the word 'staff' will fade out of use altogether over the next twenty to thirty years.

Is there such a thing as a secure job anymore? Should there be, in your view?
Depends on who you are. If your skills are in demand, then yes, you can write your own Ts&Cs. That won't be the experience of the majority of us. 

On the plus side, we are all going to be better educated in the future, so those of us that have work will on average be better paid than we are now. On the downside, increased globalisation and automation will make more people redundant than ever before, and from roles previously thought of as immune.

Middle-class jobs are now being lost to robots, not just low or semi skilled jobs. The Washington Post recently started publishing articles written by learning computers. Eeek!

The eternal push for cheaper/better/quicker is wreaking pretty profound social change and no one company, government or multinational agency is capable of single-handedly changing the pace of that. 

You can't give it all away but can you tell us anything that did really challenge your views/experiences?
I keep dwelling on one graph I saw. It showed how salaries have fallen (even in the good times) over twenty years. And if you lay a graph of union membership over it, you can see how the decline there mirrors the slip in wages.

Whatever your feelings about unions, and there are some that have undoubtedly disgraced themselves, new employers, refusal to recognise them has brought about big, bad changes in our living conditions.

What-Are-You-Working-For-Philip-Boucher-Hayes
Philip Boucher Hayes

You're getting right into the fabric of modern Irish life and whether our wages are dictating our role and/or status in society - what are your thoughts on this?
I thought as I was starting to make this programme that it was all going to be about what you are earning. It wasn't though.

Of course, salary is crucial, especially if you're paid crap, but we work for plenty more reasons than a paycheque.

Just ask anyone on the dole.

I talked to teachers who were pee'd off about not earning the same as their senior colleagues. But you could see their chests fill with pride when you talked to them about the standing in the community that comes with their jobs.

I also spoke to senior people in one of Ireland's most successful but unsung areas - aircraft leasing.

They were on €140,000 or more, but you could see it rankled with them that nobody knew what they did or valued it.

So, yeah, money is important, and we'd all like a bit more of it. But don't go thinking that it confers status. That is earned and banked in an entirely different way.

Who should watch the programme?
Anyone who has ever worked is working now or wants to work.

The three industries that you focus on are Finance, Tech and Pharma - are these the three most successful and therefore popular areas for graduates?
They are the best at what they do, so they pay incredibly well. They are so much more efficient and better run than any indigenous company it would make your eyes water.

They are the success stories of this generation. And many of the people working for them will end up in the top 1% of workers mid way through their careers

But be careful what you wish for.

Jobs at a lot of these companies come at an enormous price that matches those enormous salaries. They own you. 

Regarding FDI companies - they've received a lot of negative press over the tax cuts they receive etc but do we need them?
It's way too late to be asking ourselves that question. That's like saying as you are being pushed into the delivery room, "I think on balance I might be better off without this baby".

We have spent seventy years in this country wooing foreign direct investment. 200,000 people are employed by FDI companies.

A large part of the economy pivots on it. Whatever the rights and wrongs of rates of 0.00005% effective taxation, we have got those corporate logos tattooed across our backs and it's too late to do anything about it.

You also look at the interesting area of people increasingly getting their self worth from their work - where did the findings for this come from?
This was the part of this programme that most amazed me. I asked everybody I interviewed to rank in order of importance A) Salary B) Job Satisfaction C) Workplace friendships.

Even the people who were struggling to make ends meet put Salary number three. We all do.

Work is immensely important to who we are no matter what we do.
 
Some say that's because we live in a post religion/post belief society, so work has filled that void. I'm not so sure about that.

I think taking pride in your work probably pre-dates organised religion. Whichever, it only goes to underline how devastating losing your job is to your whole sense of self. 

It would be much more desirable if we all took our work a little less seriously. I can't imagine my last thoughts on my death bed are going to be "Dammit, if only I'd made just one more documentary about work"

Tune into What Are You Working For? on RTÉ One tonight, September 11th at 9.35pm