This research agenda outlines possible routes to pursue an explanation of vertical gender segregation. The analysis emphasizes the expanding opportunities brought about by a combination of Big Data and public policies, like gender quotas, and uncovers important challenges for which possible solutions are offered. Experimental work is likely to remain very useful in the pursuit of answers to this asymmetric gender presence.
This longitudinal study investigates how work-related well-being measured by job satisfaction differs by employment types in Korea. The relationship between job satisfaction and employment type reflecting internal (motivation of choice) and external (type of employment contracts) heterogeneity of non-standard workers is examined. The first 6th wave (2009–14) of the ‘09 sample’ from the Korean Labour and Income Panel Study (KLIPS) is used. The results show that average level of job satisfaction of non-standard workers is lower than that of standard workers and the change in employment type from standard to non-standard leads to a decrease in job satisfaction. Examining the internal heterogeneity of non-standard workers shows job satisfaction did not decrease for those who voluntarily choose non-standard contracts but did decrease for the involuntary group. Moreover, external heterogeneity did not affect those who involuntarily chose non-standard contracts, but the outcome varies for the voluntary non-standard workers.
Since the start of the economic crisis in 2008 there has been widespread concern with changes in the level and composition of unemployment. The phenomenon of underemployment has, however, received markedly less attention, although it too increased in extent following the start of the crisis. This article considers the consequences of underemployment for the subjective well-being of UK employees. Drawing on data from the 2006 and 2012 Employment and Skills Surveys, the article assesses how the Great Recession affected relationships between different dimensions of underemployment and well-being. The findings demonstrate that the negative well-being consequences of workers’ dissatisfaction with opportunities to make use of their abilities became more substantial, as did the consequences of being ‘hours constrained’ and having an unsatisfactory workload. The article also shows that the economic crisis had a negative impact on the well-being of employees who work very long hours.
The question of how to achieve ‘work–life balance’ has been a central debate for several decades. Hitherto, this subject has primarily been explored in organizational contexts; less is known in the context of self-employment. This article advances our understanding of work–life balance by analysing the everyday stories of self-employed immigrant parents in Norway. In this study, work–life balance is constructed in contrasting ways between mothers and fathers on the individual level and simultaneously in binary and potentially competing ways on the couple level. Hence, through an analysis of the participants’ work and family availabilities, this study sheds light on how gender relations may be shaped at the micro level within the Nordic dual-earner family model.
Analyses of linked employer–employee data for Britain indicate bisexual men earn 20 per cent less per hour than heterosexual men, ceteris paribus. There is no wage differential between gay and heterosexual men. Among women there is no wage gap between bisexuals and heterosexuals. However, lesbians are paid nearly 30 per cent less than heterosexual women, unless they are employed in a workplace with an equal opportunities policy which explicitly refers to sexual orientation, whereupon there is no wage gap. Workplace sorting by sexual orientation does not affect the size of the sexual orientation wage gaps.
Construction work is physically demanding and often associated with bodily pain. This article presents a study of construction workers’ practices of using and relating to their bodies at work through an agential realist framework for analysing the (re)configuration of the workers’ embodied subjectivity. The analysis draws on interviews with 32 Danish construction workers as well as brief observations. The article shows how ‘trading health for money’ becomes a mode for maintaining positive social, occupational and masculine identity among construction workers. Furthermore, it shows how the agency of the body is overruled by the intra-acting agencies of productivity, collegiality, job security and masculine working-class identity. Finally, it shows an instability in this configuration of masculine working-class identity that leaves room for a focus on the body.
When encountering problems and dissatisfaction in the workplace, employees may choose between three strategies: voice; exit; or silence. Using survey data and interview material from a study of employees in an elderly care organization in Sweden, this article investigates the workers’ perceptions of the eligibility and prospects of these strategies and which individual characteristics and situational factors might affect them. The focus is on racialized workers (operationalized through their region of birth) who, according to earlier studies, are less likely than other employees to choose voice behaviour. Contrary to some earlier studies, the results here attribute such a propensity to the importance of power differences across ‘racial hierarchies’ rather than to differences in cultural values. Individuals in this (racialized) category have a lower occupational status, earn less and experience less favourable relationships with their managers.
In this article we focus on the creation of debt relations between workers and their workplace as a tool of managerial control in the garment factories of Bangalore, India. The currency of indebtedness in this case is working time and our focus is the manipulation of hours of work at the base of the international, buyer-driven, garment supply chain. In illuminating debt relations and worker dependency as an element of managers’ repertoire of control, we compare a system known as ‘comp-off’ in contemporary Indian factories with the historical precedent of a system known as ‘working dead horse’ in Britain. Our comparison illuminates how value is extracted from workers and how old control systems are updated within the labour process, in a feminized sector where workers’ associational power is weak and social downgrading is one means by which employers can offload risk, maximize flexibility and secure their position at the local level.
The idea of ‘exiting’ the sex industry plays a powerful symbolic role in the feminist debates around the morality, legitimacy and regulation of sex work. Drawing on interviews with 39 women sex workers in Australia and Canada, we explore three key contrasts between dominant narratives and interventions that frame ‘exiting’ as escape from trauma or exploitation, and sex workers’ assessments of ‘exiting’ as a personal or professional strategy. First, we explore sex workers’ perceptions of sex work as temporary work. Second, we analyse the symbiosis between exit plans and current work practices. Third, we examine workers’ assessment of the value of ‘exiting’ sex work in the context of changing market forces within the sex industry, the ‘square’ labour market (or non-sex work sectors) and exiting interventions (i.e. programmes to assist workers in leaving sex work).
Drawing on a relational approach and based on an ethnographic study of street cleaners and refuse collectors, we redress a tendency towards an overemphasis on the discursive by exploring the co-constitution of the material and symbolic dynamics of dirt. We show how esteem-enhancing strategies that draw on the symbolic can be both supported and undermined by the physicality of dirt, and how relations of power are rooted in subordinating material conditions. Through employing Hardy and Thomas’s taxonomy of objects, practice, bodies and space, we develop a fuller understanding of how the symbolic and material are fundamentally entwined within dirty work, and suggest that a neglect of the latter might foster a false optimism regarding worker experiences.
The influence of language on social capital in low-skill and ethnically diverse workplaces has thus far received very limited attention within the sociology of work. As the ethnically diverse workplace is an important social space for the construction of social relations bridging different social groups, the sociology of work needs to develop a better understanding of the way in which linguistic diversity influences the formation of social capital (i.e. resources such as the trust and reciprocity inherent in social relations in such workplaces). Drawing on theories about intergroup contact and intercultural communication, this article analyses interviews with 31 employees from two highly ethnically diverse Danish workplaces. The article shows how linguistic barriers such as different levels of majority language competence and their consequent misunderstandings breed mistrust and hostility, while communication related to collaboration and ‘small talk’ may provide linguistic bridges to social capital formation.
Even as employment in the construction industry in India has grown in recent decades, economic insecurities of workers persist. The existing forms of work and labour control, embedded in capitalist and patriarchal relations, are significant for women’s ability to question or resist their conditions of work. To understand the relations among workers and between workers and contractors/employers, this study draws on Scott’s idea of the ‘moral economy’. I argue in this article that in the absence of formal or legal contracts between workers and contractors, women are led to mobilize on their social capital or their valued relations with contractors and co-workers. Women’s responses to their situation may not demonstrate a strong articulation of exploitation in class or feminist terms, but their political sense is informed by ideas of morality and reciprocity in relationships. Their resistance could be strengthened when they collectively act with workers in a similar situation.
This article explores the relationship between the job characteristics underlying the Goldthorpe model of social class (work monitoring difficulty and human asset specificity) and those underlying theories of technological change (routine and analytical tasks) highlighted as key drivers for growing inequality. Analysis of the 2012 British Skills and Employment Survey demonstrates monitoring difficulty and asset specificity predict National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC) membership and employment relations in ways expected by the Goldthorpe model, but the role of asset specificity is partially confounded by analytical tasks. It concludes that while the Goldthorpe model continues to provide a useful descriptive tool of inequality-producing processes and employment relations in the labour market, examining underlying job characteristics directly is a promising avenue for future research in understanding over time dynamics in the evolution of occupational inequalities.
Union renewal research calls for moving beyond broad terms, like community unionism, to specify how social relations of work shape renewal for different workers, sectors and contexts. Analysis of interviews with union officials and union members in publicly funded, in-home personal support reveal two community dimensions: both caring and racialized relations between workers and service recipients. Scholarship on care workers emphasizes empathy and coalition with service recipients as a key aspect of union renewal, yet says little about racialized tensions. Studies of domestic workers emphasize organizing in response to racialization, but provide little insight into caring social relations at work. This article develops arguments that both positive and negative worker–recipient relations shape union organizing and representation in the service sector by specifying the ways in which racialization contributes to this dynamic. It suggests that anti-racist organizing at work, alongside coalition building and collective bargaining, are important renewal strategies for this sector.
There is growing interest in the ability of the informal sector to provide gainful work in much of the developing world. However, the literature on work in the informal sector remains dominated by resource- and rights-based approaches, which fail to consider the features of work valued by informal workers themselves. This article investigates perceptions of ‘good work’ based on focus group discussions with informal workers in the capitals of Uganda, Burkina Faso and Sri Lanka. Using the capability approach as a framework, it reveals that informal workers value a combination of instrumental features of work, such as income and working hours, and intrinsic aspects, such as relationships and recognition. The article’s findings contribute to debates on quality of work in formal and informal contexts by illustrating the role of social and environmental conversion factors, including gender and class relations, in mediating the relationship between work and well-being.
Set in the context of the Swedish state’s agenda of dual emancipation for women and men, the article shows how a global ICT consultancy company’s formal gender equality goal is undermined by competing demands. Employing the concept of availability, in preference to work–life balance, the research found women opted out of roles requiring high degrees of spatial and temporal availability for work, in favour of roles more easily combined with family responsibilities. Such choices led to poor career development, plus the loss of technological expertise and confidence. These outcomes were at odds with the company’s gender equality aims, as well as government objectives to make it easier for women and men to combine work and family, and increase the number of women within ICT.
Inequalities in the creative industries are known to be persistent and systemic. The model of production in UK film and television (UKF&TV) is argued to exclude on the basis of gender, race and class. This article considers a social category that has been overlooked in these debates: disability. It argues that workers with impairments are ‘doubly disabled’ – in both the labour markets and labour processes of UKF&TV. It concludes that disability cannot simply be incorporated in an additive way in order to understand the exclusion of these workers, but that they face qualitatively different sources of disadvantage compared with other minorities in UKF&TV workplaces. This has negative implications for workers with impairments in other labour markets, as project and network-based freelance work, a contributor to disadvantage, is seen as both increasingly normative and paradigmatic.
This article explores the consumption practices of fast food workers through the lens of Bourdieu, specifically his notion of habitus. The authors address a gap in knowledge in the field of fast food work and explore the ways that the family environment and social relationships outside the family shape adult food choices using qualitative interviews with 40 fast food workers. Most fast food workers eat fast food when they are at work but their consumption patterns and choices reflect familial, cultural and class-based eating patterns and learning in adult social relationships (e.g., eating practices with friends). Some engage in a deliberate (conscious) process in their eating habits. The findings suggest that structure, disposition and conscious thought may influence food consumption.
Levels of mature-age unemployment and under-employment are increasing in Australia, with older jobseekers spending longer unemployed than younger jobseekers. This article focuses on two key explanations of the difficulties confronting older jobseekers: human capital theory, which focuses on the obsolescence of older workers’ job skills, and ageism in employment. Drawing upon narrative interviews with older Australians, it critically engages with both these understandings. Using a Bourdieusian analysis, it shows how ageing intersects with the deployment of different forms of capital that are valued within particular labour market fields to shape older workers’ ‘employability’. By examining how class, gender and age intersect to structure experiences of marginalization, it questions conventional analyses that see older workers as discriminated against simply because they are older.
Prior to 2011 the China Enterprise Confederation (CEC) was the only employer association recognized by China’s government. Drawing on interviews with staff from employer associations, employers and state officials, this study clarifies the role of Chinese employer associations, with the focus being on the CEC. The study finds that the Confederation is a quasi-state agency that undertakes many of the activities conducted by employer associations in developed economies. It also finds that the demise of the CEC’s monopolization of employer representation can be attributed to its inability to act as an agent of countervailing power and its inability to sustain a complementary relationship with the social partners that are suited to the newly emergent employment relationship being constructed in China.
This article examines service nepotism, the practice of bestowing gifts or benefits on customers by frontline service staff based on a perceived shared socio-collective identity. Adopting a micro-sociological approach, it explores the practice as played out in multi-cultural transient service encounters. Given the dearth of existing research and low visibility of service nepotism operating ‘under the radar’, the article assumes an exploratory qualitative research approach to capture it through ‘microstoria’: the sharing of stories by marginal actors, as recounted by West African migrants working in the UK. These stories reveal similarity-to-self cueing, non-verbal communication and the availability of discretionary authority as three salient logics in play. In a highly differentiated multi-ethnic society, service nepotism challenges a very specific customer-oriented bureaucratic ethos that demands impartiality. It also provides contexts for relatively powerless employees to rebalance their relationship with their organizations, thereby addressing a more pressing dysfunction within the market and society more generally.
This article analyses the longitudinal effect of rural/urban migration on labour market outcomes for young people in Britain. It assesses how rural/urban origin and residential location affect career prospects, tracking earnings from youth (defined as aged under 25) into adulthood using data from British Household Panel Survey waves 1–18. Earnings in rural areas are higher overall, although young people in rural areas are paid less than urban counterparts. While earnings increase at a quicker rate for those in rural locations, being of rural origin leads to slower wage growth and respondents who ‘stay rural’ throughout the full observation period earn less than all other groups.
This article examines the working lives of British couple families across the first decade of the millennium using EU Labour Force Survey data (2001–13) taking a multiple equilibria approach. Some growth in dual full-time earners, increased working hours of mothers in part-time employment and a growing proportion of households with ‘non-standard’ working patterns are all identified, suggesting both a convergence and greater diversity in economic provisioning within parent couple households. Household employment patterns remain strongly associated with maternal education and family size but are becoming less sensitive to the age of the youngest child. The dual full-time earner model is growing in significance for British parents of young children but a new gender egalitarian equilibrium has not yet been reached.
The relative importance of economic and other motives for employers to provide support for work–life balance (WLB) is debated within different literatures. However, discourses of WLB can be sensitive to changing economic contexts. This article draws on in-depth interviews with senior human resources professionals in British public sector organizations to examine shifting discourses of WLB in an austerity context. Three main discourses were identified: WLB practices as organizationally embedded amid financial pressures; WLB practices as a strategy for managing financial pressures; and WLB as a personal responsibility. Despite a discourse of mutual benefits to employee and employer underpinning all three discourses, there is a distinct shift towards greater emphasis on economic rather than institutional interests of employers during austerity, accompanied by discursive processes of fixing, stretching, shrinking and bending understandings of WLB. The reconstructed meaning of WLB raises concerns about its continued relevance to its original espoused purpose.
Despite research documenting social economy organizations (SEOs) as important labour market intermediaries in the informal economy, the impact of these organizations on employment outcomes experienced by workers engaged in these labour markets is relatively unknown. This article analyses the impact of day labour worker centres on employment outcomes experienced in the informal day labour economy of the United States. Using data from the National Day Labour Survey, findings indicate that these organizations improve working conditions for day labourers and suggest the potential for SEOs to regulate employment processes within the informal economy. However increasing the regulatory capacity of SEOs will require addressing larger political and socioeconomic contexts in which the informal economy is embedded.
Taking a longitudinal case study approach, this article examines the process of rule breaking in a newly formed UK domiciliary care provider. In this study, the founder acted in such a manner so as to partially decouple the organization from externally imposed institutional rules and regulations, allowing the emergence of informal rules between carer and client. These informal rules increasingly guided the behaviours of care workers over time, resulting in the breach of formal strictures. Building on the dimensions of hierarchy and contentiousness, rule breaking is conceptualized here as a phenomenon which occurs as a result of the tension between competing formal and informal rules, at multiple levels throughout the organizational hierarchy.
This article considers the impact of flexible working arrangements (FWAs), using the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society, 2001–10/11. Results of panel logit, ANCOVA and change-score analysis are indicative of positive impacts from use of a number of FWAs, including homeworking having positive effects for men and women on job and leisure satisfaction. However, findings reveal gaps in availability and use of FWAs, and highlight the gendered nature of flexible employment. Flexi-time, the most common FWA among men, has positive effects as it facilitates management of household responsibilities while maintaining full-time employment. Part-time and homeworking are also positive, consistent with men using FWAs with a greater degree of choice. Women more often are constrained in their use of FWAs, often into working reduced hours. Consequently, FWAs have negative impacts for some women, on job (part-time when used for extended periods, flexi-time), leisure (job-share, flexi-time) and life satisfaction (job-share).
This article explores the impact of state reforms to increase customer authority in social care at a time of public sector austerity in Scotland. The article focuses on the implications of these reforms for state–non-profit relations and the latter’s employment policies. The study proposes a theoretical framework to explore these themes using insights from the ‘hollowing out’ thesis and the customer-orientated bureaucracy concept. Non-profits respond to increased customer authority from personalization and public expenditure cuts by adopting more competitive relations with each other. They also introduce contradictory ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ Human Resource Management (HRM) reforms. Workers face multiple demands to be more flexible and exhibit commitment to ‘fit’ with customer needs. Despite some increases in skills, the increasing influence of customer authority and efficiency savings mean employees experience multiple degradations in employment conditions affecting pay, job security, skills and work intensification.
Previous research has shown that labour supply – especially of partnered women with supplemental incomes – is positively associated with homeownership status. This literature is advanced by testing whether wanting to move into homeownership before the actual entry into homeownership affects individuals’ labour supply in couples. The empirical analysis is based on longitudinal data from the British Household Panel Survey (1991–2008). Fixed-effects panel regression models are used to predict the labour supply of women and men separately. Labour supply changes associated with homeownership are found to mainly occur when individuals want to move into homeownership and prior to the actual entry into homeownership. When wanting to move into homeownership, women and men increase their labour supply, where women are more likely to take up work and men to increase work hours. For women, the association between wanting to move into homeownership and labour supply is moderated by regional house price changes.
Through a historic wave of strikes, France’s sans-papiers (immigrants without papers) became known as ‘sans-papier workers’ and renewed their fight for legal status. The state instituted employment-based regularization and unions embraced migrant workers’ access to legal status as a labour issue. Following Bourdieu and Boltanski, this article traces the institutional genesis and political trajectory of the ‘sans-papier worker’ as symbolic category and objective group, highlighting its agonistic coproduction by state policy and union strategy. The study relies on a three-year collective ethnography including participant observation, archive collection and over a hundred interviews with migrant workers, union activists, employers and civil servants. Whereas the new framing initially uncovered the reality of undocumented migrants at work, it gradually became an exclusive category that sorted ‘workers’ from the others. Ultimately, the fight for ‘sans-papier workers’ confronted labour organizations and the state with the question of when one starts and stops being a worker.
Using quantitative methods, this article examines the effect of foreign accents on job applicants’ employability ratings in the context of a simulated employment interview experiment conducted in the USA. It builds upon the literature on aesthetic labour, which focuses largely on the role of physical appearance in employment relations, by shifting attention to its under-investigated auditory and aural dimensions. The results suggest that the managerial respondents actively discriminate in telephone-based job interviews against applicants speaking Chinese-, Mexican- and Indian-accented English, and all three are rated higher in non-customer-facing jobs than in customer-facing jobs. Job applicants who speak British-accented English, especially men, fare as well as, and at times better than, native candidates who speak American English. The article makes a contribution to the sociological literatures surrounding aesthetic labour and discrimination and prejudice against migrant workers.
This article presents the results of a qualitative study of 72 workers in regional Victoria, Australia. Against the background of the growing casualization of the workforce it demonstrates the impact on the health and well-being of these workers, focusing on the intersection between psychosocial working conditions and health. In particular it focuses on the detrimental impact on workers’ sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem. It emphasizes how the job insecurity characteristic of non-standard work extends beyond the fear of job loss to involve uncertainty over the scheduling of work, with debilitating consequences for workers’ autonomy, self-efficacy and control over their lives. Additionally, it is argued that the exclusion of these workers from paid leave and other entitlements in the workplace confers a lower social status on these workers that is corrosive of their self-esteem. It is these key socio-psychological mechanisms that provide the link between insecure work and workers’ health.
This article presents data from a comprehensive study of hyper flexible and precarious work in the service sector. A series of interviews were conducted with self-employed personal trainers along with more than 200 hours of participant observation within fitness centres in the UK. Analysis of the data reveals a new form of hyper flexible and precarious work that is labelled neo-villeiny in this article. Neo-villeiny is characterized by four features: bondage to the organization; payment of rent to the organization; no guarantee of any income; and extensive unpaid and speculative work that is highly beneficial to the organization. The neo-villeiny of the self-employed personal trainer offers the fitness centre all of the benefits associated with hyper flexible work, but also mitigates the detrimental outcomes associated with precarious work. The article considers the potential for adoption of this new form of hyper flexible and precarious work across the broader service sector.
The debate over the significance of union learning representatives (ULRs) in the UK has become increasingly polarized. Some commentators see little prospect of ULRs contributing to advancing either workplace learning or union organization due to the constraints of neo-liberal state policy. An opposing view emphasizes union agency in developing a collective approach to learning and extended joint regulation through a process of critical engagement. This article presents analysis of data from the 2009 National Survey of ULRs, which finds a positive relationship between ULR activity and its impact in enhancing training outcomes, increasing union membership and the joint regulation of workplace learning. This supports arguments that agency of ULRs is not inevitably suppressed by the structural limitations of union learning.
The relationships between unemployment, mental health (care) and medication use among 50–65 year-old men (N = 11,789) and women (N = 15,118) are studied in Europe. Inspired by the social norm theory of unemployment, the relevance of regional unemployment levels and workplace closure are explored, using multilevel analyses of data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement. In line with the social norm theory, the results show that – only for men – displaced workers are less depressed and use less medication than the non-displaced unemployed. However, they report more depressive symptoms than the employed, which supports the causal effect of unemployment on mental health. Non-displaced unemployed men are also more likely to consume medication than the displaced unemployed. In addition, using regional unemployment as a proxy for the social norm of unemployment can be questioned when studying mental health effects, as it seems to be a stronger measurement of labour market conditions than of the social norm of unemployment, especially during a recession.
This research note takes an occupational attainment approach to examining the economic assimilation of immigrants in Australia. This approach differs from much of the existing literature, which tends to examine economic assimilation by looking at levels of (un)employment or wages. Focusing on occupational attainment is useful, in that disadvantage in the labour market is not limited to employment status and earnings, and an individual’s occupation may provide a broader signal of their economic and social well-being. Findings indicate that, on arrival, immigrants from a non-English speaking background face significant disadvantage in occupational attainment, particularly those from Asian countries. There is also evidence to suggest that those who arrive later in life, or are from an Asian non-English speaking background, are the least likely to assimilate over time. Results are indicative of the need for policies to better integrate immigrants from more diverse cultures and societies into the Australian labour market.
Research on single mothers’ employment overwhelmingly focuses on the importance of access to formal childcare at a single point in time. However, to understand the relationship between childcare and single mothers’ employment we must consider their access to and use of multiple forms of childcare – their childcare packages – and how these change over time. Drawing on a longitudinal qualitative study and employing the concepts of ‘caringscapes’ and ‘work-time/childcare-time’, this article highlights how childcare packages shape single mothers’ employment trajectories. Informal carers play a crucial role within mixed (formal and informal) childcare packages in helping mothers bring children’s needs, work-time and childcare-time into alignment, thus strengthening their employment trajectories. Informal carers achieve this effect by: (1) increasing the total hours of non-parental care; (2) ‘gluing’ together complex jigsaws of care; (3) offering a ‘safety net’ in times of crisis; and (4) playing a ‘connector’ role during employment transitions.
This article investigates the role of temporary work agencies (TWAs) at Foxconn’s assembly plants in the Czech Republic. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, it shows TWAs’ comprehensive management of migrant labour: recruitment and selection in the countries of origin; cross-border transportation, work and living arrangements in the country of destination; and return to the countries of origin during periods of low production. The article asks whether the distinctiveness of this specific mode of labour management can be understood adequately within the framework of existing theories on the temporary staffing industry. In approaching the staffing industry through the lens of migration labour analysis, the article reveals two key findings. Firstly, TWAs are creating new labour markets but do so by eroding workers’ rights and enabling new modalities of exploitation. Secondly, the diversification of TWAs’ roles and operations has transformed TWAs from intermediaries between capital and labour to enterprises in their own right.
This article seeks to understand a puzzling finding: that workers in publicly funded home care for older people in Australia, compared to those in Sweden, feel that they are better able to meet their clients’ needs, that their workplaces are less pressed, and that their work is less burdensome and more compatible with their family and social commitments. This finding seems to challenge expectations fostered by comparative sociological research that job quality and care services are inferior in Australia compared to Sweden. Informed by comparative institutionalist theory and care research, the structures and dynamics of the care systems in the two countries are analysed, along with findings from the NORDCARE survey of home care workers conducted in Sweden in 2005 (n=166) and Australia in 2010 (n=318). Differences in the work and working conditions in the two countries are explained by the dynamic interaction of national institutional and highly gendered sector-level effects.
To what extent and in what ways do welfare state policies and cultural values affect the employment patterns of mid-life women with care responsibilities toward a frail parent? The study draws on Eurobarometer micro-data integrated with country-level information to respond to this question. Performing a multilevel analysis across 21 European countries, it considers macro factors that influence the decisions of mid-life women to give up or reduce paid work in order to care for a frail elderly parent. The results show that, while the overall level of expenditure on long-term care is not influential, settings characterized by limited formal care services, and strong norms with regard to intergenerational obligations, have a negative impact on women’s attachment to the labour market. Policies and cultural factors also influence the extent to which women are polarized: in more defamilialized countries, regardless of their level of education, female carers rarely reduce their level of employment.
Using longitudinal register data from Norway, the article examines the impact of having a child with intensified care needs on maternal and paternal employment, within a gender equality promoting welfare state. The hypothesis is that parents with a chronically sick or disabled child will have lower employment probabilities, lower labour earnings and higher sickness absence than parents with a healthy child, and that mothers are more affected than fathers when having a child with extra care needs. A quasi-experimental difference-in-difference regression model shows that the employment probabilities of parents with a sick or disabled child are comparable to those of parents with a healthy child, both for mothers and fathers. The analyses further reveal that having a chronically sick or disabled child reduces labour earnings and increases long-term sickness absence among mothers, while fathers’ labour earnings and sickness absence are less affected.
This article explores social exclusion in elite professional service firms (PSFs) through a qualitative study of six legal, accounting, investment banking and consulting firms. Employing a Bourdieusian perspective we find that all six firms privilege candidates with the same narrow forms of cultural capital, while acknowledging that this contradicts their professed commitment to social inclusion and recruiting the best ‘talent’. We find that this behaviour is enshrined within the habitus of elite firms. We argue that it represents an organizational strategy generated by a compulsion to achieve legitimacy in a specific field of London-based elite PSFs. We identify a ‘professional project’ of sorts, but argue that this can no longer be mapped on to the interests of a discrete occupational group. As such, we contribute to studies of elite reproduction and social stratification by focusing specifically on the role of elite professional organizations in the reproduction of inequality.
Even though women today constitute the majority of higher education graduates, they still earn considerably less than their male counterparts. Previous research demonstrates that occupational sex segregation is important for understanding the gender wage gap, since occupations dominated by women pay less; yet less is known about why this is the case. This article explores two possible mechanisms: the devaluation of ‘female-typical’ work tasks and working-time arrangements. Hypotheses are tested by applying OLS regression and Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition analyses to the log hourly wages of a representative sample of German higher education graduates from 2001. Results confirm that occupational overtime increases and occupational part-time work decreases wages, indicating that occupations dominated by women pay less due to their ‘female-typical’ working-time arrangements. However, inconsistent with the devaluation thesis, tasks like teaching/educating increase wages for women, too, which speaks against a general lower value of ‘female-typical’ tasks, at least among the highly qualified.
This article examines the changing role of the state, through an analysis of the development and implementation of the EU Temporary Agency Work Directive in the UK. The article outlines and utilizes the concept of the ‘competition state’ to help frame and comprehend the UK Government’s approach to negotiating and shaping the Directive. Using archival, secondary and primary research, the article shows how the state continues to exercise important choices nationally and internationally which, in turn, have profound implications for the operation of labour markets. The article shows how, despite a veneer of fairness, the state has developed a regulatory instrument which provides uneven protection for workers, favours the actions of employers, promotes further flexibility in the use of temporary labour contracts and, by taking advantage of compromises at the European level, creates further market-making opportunities for well-established large agencies in the sector.
Drawing on nationally representative data for British employees, the article argues for a more comprehensive concept of job insecurity, including not only job tenure insecurity but also job status insecurity, relating to anxiety about changes to valued features of the job. It shows that job status insecurity is highly prevalent in the workforce and is associated with different individual, employment and labour market characteristics than those that affect insecurity about job loss. It is also related to different organizational contexts. However, the article also shows that the existence of effective mechanisms of employee participation can reduce both types of job insecurity.
This study explores how the ‘care’ of able-bodied employees and managers (observers) affects their relationships with colleagues with cerebral palsy. Disability researchers have established that ‘help’ and ‘care’ may cause feelings of dependency with the recipient. However, few workplace studies have investigated the potential negative consequences of ‘caring for’ colleagues with disabilities. Through open-ended interviews conducted in 2013 in 13 Danish work organizations with 13 employees with cerebral palsy and 62 observers, the study examines how the relational aspect of ‘care’ may result in relationships between colleagues of ‘parent–child’ or ‘helper–helpless’. The study thus clarifies the inherent contradictions embedded in the dynamics of organizational behaviour in relation to employees with disabilities, namely that workplaces may hire a person with physical limitations (perhaps to deflect accusations of social discrimination) and still end up stigmatizing these workers because of the stereotypical assumptions related to employees with disabilities.
Managers’ abuse of subordinates is a common form of unethical behaviour in workplaces. When exposed to such abuse, employees may go absent from work. We propose two possible explanations for employee absence in response to managerial abuse: a sociological explanation based on perceptions of organizational justice and a psychological explanation based on psychological strain. Both are tested using data from a sample of 1472 mental health workers. The occurrence, duration and frequency of absence are investigated using a hurdle model. Managerial abuse is found to be associated with the occurrence of absence through both perceptions of organizational justice and psychological strain. Distributive justice and depression are especially significant in explaining the relationship between abuse and absence. Once absent, duration of absence is not further affected by managerial abuse but is still linked to depression and distributive justice, whereas frequency of absence is linked to bullying and depression.
This article explores the emergence, operation and outcomes of social partnership in the National Health Service (NHS) in Scotland and Wales. Social partnership emerged in the NHS following political devolution in 1998 which transferred powers to left-wing governments in Scotland and Wales. These arrangements helped improve health services, modernize industrial relations and enhance staff terms and conditions. In NHS Scotland, union participation in strategic decisions produced extensive co-operation to dismantle the internal health market, improve services and enhance staff terms and conditions. Union participation in NHS Wales was restricted to discussing workforce issues, and although co-operation increased when Welsh governments gained enhanced legislative powers and dismantled the internal health market, it delivered fewer improvements in service and pay levels. Differences in government political positioning (against public sector marketization) and degree of independence (with devolved administrations granted different legislative powers) help explain the operation and outcomes of social partnership.
Over the last three decades work and employment in the private and public sector are increasingly subject to marketization processes. A defining feature of marketized employment is the rise of performance management systems (PMS). This article utilizes a novel framework of Sayer’s moral economy approach and labour process theory to explore the changing nature of bank work and social relationships between branch managers and branch workers before and after the implementation of PMS in UK banks. This article illustrates how the social and moral texture of the social relationships between branch workers and their managers deteriorated after the implementation of PMS, resulting in the rise of hostile forms of engagement.
How have the skills of service jobs changed? Have they undergone deskilling, upgrading or some contingent or compensatory development? This study examines these questions as they pertain to frontline sales work in US department stores. It begins by identifying an operational concept of service skill latent across recent debates and then examines it via qualitative comparison of full-line and discount stores in New York City. Based on an evaluative framework akin to that of Blauner, this study’s workplace-level findings suggest that the industry-level succession of full-line stores by discounters has embodied a decline in the complexity and autonomy of salespersons’ emotional labour.
A recent upsurge in the incidence of precarious work in Europe necessitates fresh examination of the origins of this trend. On the basis of field research in eight European countries and with reference to theories of liberalization and dualization, the factors that drive precarious work in discrete European labour markets are thus investigated. It is discovered that, while a structural-demographic factor such as non-compliance with labour law is a notable progenitor of precarious work, the deregulatory strategies of public authorities are particularly significant drivers. In conclusion it is asserted that although the theory of dualization helps explain developments in conservative-corporatist countries, in Anglophone and Mediterranean countries liberalization theory is generally more apposite. Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries emerge as a hybrid case.
The article argues that, in the last three decades, states have become more preoccupied with, and interventionist in, the regulation of class relations in order to facilitate a broad liberalization of employment relations institutions. Drawing on insights from Regulation theorists and Karl Polanyi, the article examines the market-making role of states during periods of transition from one growth regime to another. The more prominent role of the state follows from the stickiness of institutions and the role that states can play in compensating workers from the consequences of liberalization. The article illustrates the argument with an examination of France and Sweden in the period since the early 1980s. For all their differences, in both cases substantial liberalization of employment relations institutions took place and in both cases, but for the state, the process of liberalization would have been either stymied or much more uneven than it was.
Business process reengineering and lean are increasingly used to restructure public sector work. This article presents a case study of reengineering in a California welfare agency. It finds extensive work intensification and reduced autonomy for the workforce, and deteriorating service for the clientele. Rather than attribute these outcomes as inherent to the business process reengineering model, this article emphasizes how cost cutting and quantitative efficiency were prioritized over worker empowerment and service quality because the organization is a government agency facing severe budgetary pressures under neoliberalism, and the clientele consists of indigent families and individuals who have no choice of an alternative provider.
Recent contributions on the discrimination of black and minority ethnic (BME) groups in organizations have suggested that overt forms of discrimination are now ‘old-fashioned’ and researchers are urged to focus on identifying different, ‘modern’ forms of discrimination. These are, however, set against studies that continue to report evidence of overt racism in organizations. This article argues that it may be premature and potentially counterproductive to celebrate the demise of overt discrimination in that such binary classification (‘old-fashioned’ and ‘modern’) may discourage efforts to investigate the full gamut of experiences of BME groups. The article contends that additional insights will be gained by concurrently studying not only the victims and the perpetrators of discrimination but also the organizational context in which discrimination occurs. Through the theoretical lens of gatekeeping, the article presents evidence of shopfloor discrimination against BME groups that is neither fully overt nor entirely covert.
Food retail is known for its use of flexible labour and for the centralisation of functions at head office, resulting in a reduction of managerial autonomy at store level. This article employs a typology of controls developed from labour process scholarship to explore how retail managers negotiate the control of their predominantly part-time workforce. Using an Australian supermarket chain as a case, and mixed methods, the article demonstrates that supermarkets use a multiplicity of forms of control across their workforce. For front line service workers, the article identifies a new configuration of controls which intersects with employment status and acts differentially for checkout operators on different employment contracts.
The importance of meaningful work has been identified in scholarly writings across a range of disciplines. However, empirical studies remain sparse and the potential relevance of the concept of temporality, hitherto somewhat neglected even in wider sociological studies of organizations, has not been considered in terms of the light that it can shed on the experience of work as meaningful. These two disparate bodies of thought are brought together to generate new accounts of work meaningfulness through the lens of temporality. Findings from a qualitative study of workers in three occupations with ostensibly distinct temporal landscapes are reported. All jobs had the potential to be both meaningful and meaningless; meaningfulness arose episodically through work experiences that were shared, autonomous and temporally complex. Schutz’s notion of the ‘vivid present’ emerged as relevant to understanding how work is rendered meaningful within an individual’s personal and social system of relevances.
Productive ways of thinking about work have emerged from the recent engagement between scholars in employment relations and human geography without any sustained attention to the spatiality of the labour process itself. Arguing that where work literally ‘takes place’ is important, this article explores the spatial nature of the labour process through an examination of automation in one of the world’s largest transnational mining companies, Rio Tinto. To read the labour process in spatial terms, work must be understood in the context of global production networks, the peculiarities of national ‘space economies’ and arguments about the claimed ‘hyper-mobility’ of globalized capital as well as labour geography itself. In this case, automation and a reworking of the geography of the labour process in an industry often seen as constrained by physical geography have implications for assessing labour’s agency and power amid more general changes to the spatiality of work.
This article explores the strategies of migrant workers from post-socialist Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) within the process of transnational exchange characterized by transnational labour market intermediaries that have substantially altered the former national bilateral employment relations. Utilizing a Bourdieuian conceptual framework it examines Slovenian and Polish workers’ migration strategies and struggles to acquire and convert capitals within the process of transnational exchange and upon arrival in the UK. The article uncovers the (self-)colonial cultural capital embodied in CEE workers’ habitus that drives their strategies to take up various working and training opportunities in the UK in order to acquire (trans)nationally recognized cultural capital. This labour of acquisition drives Polish and Slovenian workers to seek specific cross-cultural and ethnic-niche intermediary services that can manipulate the most reliable symbolic signs in order to make profits from migrant worker-consumers. In this regard the article also exposes inter- and intra-ethnic variations.
Recent decades have seen the category of unemployment transformed into job-seeking. Attention has generally focused on the disciplining effects of interventions, procedures and techniques within social welfare offices, or on scrutinizing policy documents as political expressions of neo-liberalism. This article examines advice for unemployed people who are ‘seeking a role’, from the official leaflets of social welfare offices or Jobcentres, and state sponsored and associated careers websites and advice books. Such documents constitute an extension of the disciplinary apparatuses of government and particularly inculcate ‘self-discipline’ for actors in the labour market. Strikingly, these documents not only involve disciplining jobseekers to seek work, but to present themselves as an ideal candidate for any job, to become a protean thespian who can act convincingly. Jobseekers are required to manage, conceal and overcome the unpleasant economic and social consequences of unemployment and turn these negatives into a positive performance within a theatricalized labour market.
In the USA, the UK and elsewhere, community unionism appears a potentially fruitful strategy for organizing the growing numbers of workers holding precarious employment. In the USA there is increasing interest in a form of community unionism that may gain traction in the UK: union-worker centre collaborations. Unions and worker centres have struggled to collaborate, however, because of their structural, cultural and ideological differences. This article examines a rare case of successful union-worker centre collaboration, asking why this collaboration emerged, what challenges it has faced, and why it has succeeded. Data show this collaboration emerged due to organizational crises, linked to broader economic changes, and individual learning following semi-successful organizing campaigns. The collaboration overcame challenges stemming from the differences between unions and worker centres through intra- and inter-organizational learning. Two conditions facilitated this outcome: bridge builders and state support for unionization. This case is used to explore broader questions about union revitalization.
This study investigates the impact of the social distance between immigrants and Swiss natives on wage inequalities. Social distance is assumed to be high when immigrants come from a different culture, a different education system and speak a different language. By combining these three aspects, this article goes beyond existing studies that only focus on cultural differences. The empirical findings indicate that, net of education, immigrants with a high or very high social distance from the receiving society are strongly disadvantaged in terms of their salaries. Additional analyses show that the impact of typical explanatory factors for labour market success such as education, citizenship and length of stay also vary by the degree of social distance between immigrants and their destination country. The analyses are based on data from the Swiss Labour Force Survey for the years 2010 and 2011, which allow for detailed analyses on individual immigrant groups due to oversampling.
The gender wage gap within a highly prestigious occupation, the medical profession, is investigated both longitudinally and cross-sectionally using Swedish administrative data. This is done by investigating: to what extent the gender wage gap among physicians varies between fields of medicine (within-occupation segregation) and across family status; whether there is an association between parenthood and wages among physicians and, if so, whether there is a gender difference in this association; and changes in the gender wage gap among physicians over time. The results indicate a large overall gender wage difference for medical doctors. Even when gender differences in specialization are taken into account, men have higher wages than women do. For both men and women physicians, there is a positive association between parenthood and wages. The longitudinal analyses show that the gender wage gap among physicians was greater in 2007 than in 1975.
The topic of work safety is a very relevant and multifaceted problem for workers, firms and policy makers. Differing from other narrow-scope studies, this article aims to enrich the understanding of workplace safety as a whole by applying econometric techniques on data from the Italian Labour Force Survey. Findings show poor working conditions are the most significant determinants of accidents and illnesses occurring at work, while having a fixed-term (temporary) contract is not significant. Other significant determinants of work safety are: not being new to the workforce; dissatisfaction with the current job; gender; and a latent proneness observed with occurrence of accident on the way to work. This article also highlights that work related accidents and illnesses are two deeply correlated phenomena and that there is a structural break after three years on the job.
The sociology of the professions has shied away from cross-national comparative work. Yet research in different professional jurisdictions emphasizes the transnational nature of professional fields. Further work is therefore needed that explores the extent to which transnational professional fields are characterized by unity or heterogeneity. To that end, this article presents the results of a qualitative interrogation of the habitus of partners in ‘Big 4’ professional service firms across, primarily, five countries (Bangladesh, Canada, France, Spain and the UK). Marked differences are observed between the partner habitus in Bangladesh and the other countries studied in terms of entrepreneurial and public service dispositions. In turn, these findings highlight the methodological relevance of habitus for both the sociology of the professions and comparative capitalism literatures: for the former, habitus aids in mapping the dynamics of transnational professional fields; for the latter, habitus can elucidate the informal norms and conventions of national business systems.
Research on work-family balance has seen flexible work arrangements as a key solution for reconciling work and family, but it has given contradictory results in regard to fathers. This article focuses on flexible parental leave for fathers in Norway, which until now has rarely been studied. Based on interviews with 20 fathers, the article explores their experiences with flexible organization of the leave, which provides them with a menu of choices, and considers how it affects their caring. Findings show that it allows work to invade care, produces a double stress and promotes half-way fathering. Flexible use of the father’s quota tends to confirm fathers as secondary carers instead of empowering them as carers.
Private sector managers’ pathways through late career and retirement are important, but insufficiently studied. Based on a large qualitative study of retiring managers in big Canadian firms, this article explores the relationships between managers’ work during their careers, their retirement transitions and their retirement activities. Three distinctive patterns of managerial work and careers are found: those of expert managers, organization managers and strategic managers. They are strongly related to how managers end their ‘full commitment’ careers and then build retirement lives by combining leisure activities, family commitments, civic involvement and paid work. Variations in retirement pathways are not well predicted by either individualization theory or theories based on generational or class habitus. Managers appear to develop distinctive orientations to acting with agency that arise from the way managerial work is organized; and these frame managers’ retirement pathways. These findings may indicate why individualization does not necessarily lead to life course destandardization.
Previous studies find a strong association between source country female labour force participation level and immigrant women’s labour market activity in the host country. This relationship is interpreted as the continued influence of source country gender role attitudes on women’s labour market behaviour. This article argues that the effect of source country female labour force participation rates extends beyond gender role attitudes by also contributing to labour market skills which help immigrant women navigate the host country labour market. When gender role attitudes are accounted for, source country female labour force participation rate is a strong predictor of immigrant women’s earnings in Canada. This is largely explained by differential occupational allocation in the host country.
Despite extensive research on the effect of family policies on the labour supply of mothers, little is known about how these policies affect fathers’ labour market outcomes. Using European panel data (EU-SILC) from 2003 to 2009 and multi-level models, this study analyses the effect of family policies on fathers’ working hours. The results indicate that fathers work less than childless men if they live in countries that offer well paid, non-transferable parental leave for fathers, short parental leave for mothers and generous family allowances. The effects, however, are strongly contingent on fathers’ educational levels. Whereas short maternal leaves are associated with shorter working hours among highly educated fathers, generous family allowances and father friendly parental leave schemes reduce the working hours of less educated fathers.
This article focuses on a hitherto un-researched group: women leaders within the UK Fire and Rescue Service. The process of modernizing the Fire and Rescue Service has increased expectations of workforce diversification and of women more easily entering and progressing within the organization. However, participants’ commentary testified to the difficulties faced when seeking recognition as a skilled woman in this context given the persistence of firefighter men as the occupational ideal type. Achieving recognition for both physical and non-physical skills remained an embodied, gendered and contested process and one that was not eased by promotion. Participants identified the heightened visibility that accompanied leadership as especially problematic. The findings suggest that some new elements of the modernized UK Fire and Rescue Service culture are less successful than they might be at supporting women in leadership roles.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s Southern European countries rapidly became magnets for a growing number of migrants from dozens of developing and East European countries. The performance of immigrants in the host labour markets strongly differ by country of origin in terms of unemployment risk and access to highly qualified jobs. This article focuses on these differences and highlights whether and to what extent they are linked to diversities in country of origin religion and race. The analysis concerns Italy, a country where the population was highly homogeneous in terms of religion and ‘racial’ characteristics until 25 years ago. The estimates show that religion plays a role in explaining differences in terms of unemployment rate only for women, while the white/non-white divide matters for both sexes. Neither race nor religion have a significant impact in terms of occupational attainment of migrants in the Italian labour market.
This article investigates the gender gap in private pension (PP) membership and wealth across different occupations among a cohort of employees using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Using a Heckman selection model to correct for selection bias the results show that gender has a stronger effect than occupation on PP membership and that it is female employees’ lower rate of PP membership that has the greatest impact on their ability to accumulate PP wealth, rather than their ability to save once a member. The size of the gender gap in PP wealth is also conditioned by occupation. Analysis of the interaction of these two variables provides new insights into the heterogeneity of women’s private pension experience and the emergence of a ‘privileged pole’ among professional women.
The disclosure of lesbian, gay or bisexual identity is generally presented as a conscious act of leaving heterosexuality. Such interpretation fails to take into account the dynamic processes involved in constructing non-heterosexual identities and to what degree such identities are embodied or disembodied. Supported by interview data among lesbian and gay employees in six British workplaces, this article explores how non-heterosexual identities become known in organizational settings by arguing that lesbians and gay men continue to collide with social expectations and stereotypical ideas of how sexual identities should be ‘worn’ and performed. These expectations and ideas both shape colleagues’ assumptions about their non-heterosexual identities and can expose lesbians and gay men to negative behaviour at work in highly gendered ways.
The article argues that the long-running debate between organizationally bounded and boundaryless careers has been too narrow and neglects the variety and distinctive characteristics of career boundaries. Drawing on boundary theory, it investigates the main career-relevant domains and boundaries, and the motivations and structural conditions that influence boundary crossing or having a career within a specific domain among a sample of professional pharmacists. The qualitative study shows that careers are enacted within a number of relevant domains and are shaped by a range of boundaries such that boundarylessness and embeddedness are co-existing career dimensions. It also reveals how even within a professional population careers are embedded within diverse social and cultural contexts that impose differing constraints on career mobility. The article therefore provides a fuller, more nuanced understanding of career boundaries and contemporary careers.
This article examines contemporary thinking about viable ways forward for gender equality at work. It questions both the lingering attachment to feminization in popular commentary and the renewed interest in positive discrimination within academic circles. Focusing on pay disparities in the public sector, it argues that greater attention should be given to the frontline agency of disadvantaged women and the material conditions that affect equality activism. Tensions in equality bargaining are highlighted, along with contradictory pressures on trade union intervention. ‘No-win-no-fee’ lawyers are considered to be neglected third party agents with greater relevance for representation and mobilization than the literature typically acknowledges, some proving to be highly effective in politicizing pay inequality.
Information technology is changing social relations in workplaces, perhaps faster than empirical and theoretical work can digest. We develop the concept ‘computer control’ to illustrate one dimension of change. Key features include unobtrusive, micro-level task control and an individualized experience of the labour process. We ask how social interaction occurs in a workplace characterized by computer control. Using participant observation, we examine interaction in Big Box, a computer-controlled grocery distribution facility. While a central computer orchestrates thousands of daily tasks, workers barely talk to execute the labour process. Interactions can occur within a ‘digital arena’, developed by management. Work becomes a game – engrossing workers in its outcomes – but simultaneously allowing management greater control over labour. We argue that management can construct virtual social spaces in the computer-controlled workplace. Information technology fully individualizes a repetitive task, while also offering a platform for reconstituting shared experiences of work. Implications are discussed.
This article presents an ethnographic exploration of resistance to teamworking in a UK research and development laboratory named RDL. It focuses on the nature of autonomy and responsibility and the implications for resistance. It finds that resistance is shaped by the laboratory technicians’ individualistic interactions with technology, the laboratory layout and the technicians’ desire for personal task-related autonomy and individual responsibility rather than team-based accountability. However, although resistance is linked to an individualistic interpretation of work it is supported by collective collusion. The article also finds that resistance is not necessarily anti-work. It is simultaneously oriented towards the interests of the company and individual technicians through the technicians’ desire to perform their job well. Finally, the article demonstrates the local and constructed nature of resistance.
The objective of this article is to analyse the effect of acquiring a new formal qualification as an adult (measured as an upgrade or a side-step) on the likelihood of being in non-precarious employment. Three countries with similar longitudinal datasets are compared: Spain, the UK and Russia. The results indicate that adult education is beneficial in the three countries; with differences, however, depending on the definition of precarious employment used and the (previous) employment status of individuals. The findings suggest that the differences among countries are related to different labour market structures: adult education has a clearer beneficial impact on accessing and remaining in non-precarious employment in more flexible employment systems than in more rigid insider-outsider economies, where labour trajectories are strongly determined by what happens during the first years after school.
This article examines to what extent a social norm to work moderates the relationship between employment status and subjective well-being. It was expected that the detrimental impact of non-employment on subjective well-being would be larger in countries with a stronger social norm. Using a direct measure of the social norm to work and employing data from 45 European countries, this study assessed subjective well-being levels of five employment status groups for men and women separately. Results showed that subjective well-being of unemployed men and women is unaffected by the social norm to work. However, non-working disabled men are worse off in countries with a stronger norm. Living in such a country also decreases the well-being gap between employed and retired men, whereas retired women are worse off in these countries. This effect for retirees disappears when a country’s GDP is taken into account, suggesting that norms matter less than affluence.
Men are overwhelmingly responsible for sexual harassment against women in the workplace. However, the literature also points to less typical manifestations, including sexual harassment by men of other men and by women of men or other women. This article examines these atypical forms of sexual harassment, drawing on a census of all formal sexual harassment complaints lodged with Australian equal opportunity commissions over a six-month period. The analysis reveals some important distinctions and similarities across groups of atypical complaints, as well as between atypical groups and ‘classic’ sexual harassment complaints where men harass women. The article contributes to the relatively undeveloped literature on these less visible forms of sexual harassment and highlights both theoretical and pragmatic challenges in better understanding workplace sexual harassment ‘at the margins’.
Governments in Europe and elsewhere have renewed their attention to the fiscal regulation of their economies in order to close tax loopholes and boost revenues in response to the financial crisis. The article uses a neo-Polanyian ‘instituted economic process’ approach to explore and explain the uniquely high level of bogus self-employment in the UK construction industry, facilitated by confused law and stimulated by a bespoke construction fiscal regime, resulting in endemic tax evasion. It examines how the co-evolution of employment status law and a sector-specific fiscal regime maps tightly onto the emergence of mass self-employment, as evidenced by comparative labour market and sectoral statistics. Seeing competition as an instituted process within these distinctive market arrangements, it identifies a form of ‘degenerative competition’, driving out both genuine direct-employment and self-employment, and driving in bogus self-employment, with its attendant substantial fiscal losses, failed skill reproduction and poor productivity.
The sociological understandings of both cooperation and resistance at work are complex. This article contributes to knowledge about dialectic tensions concerning both collaborative and conflictual workforce orientations in the context of a ‘pre-arranged’ union-management partnership agreement. It reports unofficial workforce militancy in opposition to both management and union policy regarding a socially constructed cooperative work regime. The article advances a ‘radical pluralist’ analysis to understand the formation of worker interests and attendant workforce orientations within capitalism.
Sociological understanding of how business travellers make use of travel time is somewhat lacking. This article addresses this gap in knowledge via presenting an analysis of survey-based data collected from business people travelling by plane, train and car. Through disaggregating the data by travel mode, journey stage, technology use and task type the article provides a level of granular detail in the general patterns of business travellers’ travel time behaviour not previously provided by other surveys. Utilizing the concept of ‘affordances’, the article shows how the type of work activities undertaken are shaped by the dynamic interaction between the characteristics in the travel environment, the type of work tasks undertaken and work technologies utilized in carrying out these tasks and the active choices of business travellers.
The phenomenon of workplace partnership has attracted significant academic interest. This article uses case study evidence from a traditional heavy engineering MNC context to examine how the pursuit of collaborative strategies affected the roles of a multi-layered, mature community of trade union shop stewards. The analytical lens of legitimacy is used to provide insight into the contrasting experiences of senior and sectional stewards – a hitherto overlooked area. This study suggests limitations at one level of representation may be offset by advances at another and thus aids understanding of the conditions underpinning the impact of partnership.
This research note considers how we interact with verbatim interview transcripts. Drawing on reader-response theory, the note examines the possible effect of readers’ engagement with this often dysfluent talk-as-text. Lessons from the reader-response literature suggest that in realizing verbal transcripts we may be convincingly representing changed worlds to our audiences – specifically, our world and not their world. As a result of this potential hazard, this note alerts qualitative researchers to be mindful of the possible impact of engaging with talk-as-text and offers strategies to retain robustness in their research.
How can critical social scientists pursue critically engaged research? This question is addressed by examining how an action research intervention, informed by critical realism, was used to assist a business support agency (SUPPAG) to provide support to new migrant business owners. The article responds to calls for more engaged approaches to research, and more engagement with new migrants in different forms of employment. Key critical realist ideas (layered ontology, mechanisms, morphogenetic loops) shaped: the theoretical perspective; the approach to action research; the findings; and practice at SUPPAG. A key conclusion is that ‘engaged’ research is possible without compromising a commitment to critical scholarship.
There is significant research demonstrating the labour market disadvantage experienced by the disabled community. Yet, relationships between wider ill-health concepts and employment are poorly investigated. This article presents an empirical investigation into the impacts of poor mental and physical health on the propensity to be employed. The results indicate that activity-limiting physical health and accomplishment-limiting mental health issues significantly affect the propensity to be employed. Further investigations reveal the significance of an interacted variable that captures the multiplicative effect of both physical and mental health, illustrating that the combined effect of both health domains can be more influential than separate pathways. Additional empirical analysis highlights gender and ethnicity divides. It is also found that mental health is mostly exogenous to employment propensity. This research provides evidence that mental and physical health related issues can lead to economic exclusion.
This article examines precarious employment in the context of the mushroom industry in Northern Ireland. Migrant workers engaged in mushroom picking were interviewed in the context of wider research investigating forced labour in Northern Ireland. The research found that, while the boundaries between exploitation and forced labour are complex and difficult to discern, there was some evidence of borderline forced labour, according to ILO definitions. However, workers found themselves on a ‘continuum of exploitation’, where initial engagement with the prospect of decent work was superseded by increasing endurance of exploitative practices, brought about by unequal power relationships with employers originating in immigration status. This is examined in the wider theoretical context of precarity, of which precarious employment comprises a part.
In this study we investigate the effects of active labour market policy measures on health and well-being and how these effects are connected with socioeconomic status. The data were collected among the participants (n = 212) in 24 conventional vocational training courses in Finland. According to the results, training was accompanied by improvements in health and well-being among participants with a higher socioeconomic status, whereas for blue-collar workers the changes were neutral or even detrimental. The results raise questions about the role of active labour market policy measures as a public service. There seems to be a risk that these types of measures maintain or even produce health differences between socioeconomic groups.
The meaning of professionalism is changing, with the commercial pressures of globalization exerting dramatic pressures on the nature of professional work and the skill sets required of professionals. This article engages with this debate by reporting on a qualitative, empirical study undertaken in a domain that has been largely neglected by sociology: professional accounting. Focusing on the elite ‘Big 4’ accounting firms, the ways in which partners and other senior accountants embody institutional logics into their habitus are analysed. It is shown that the embodiment of different logics is inextricably linked to the establishment of hierarchy within the Big 4, with a commercial-professional logic accorded a significantly higher status than a technical-professional logic. Further, the article responds to critics of Bourdieu’s notion of habitus, highlighting how habitus does not merely denote the passive internalization of external structures, but is also capable of disembodying constraining institutional logics, thereby highlighting scope for professional self-determination.
Occupation-based social classifications are important social indicators, but are easily misunderstood. Using survey data from the UK and Sweden, we summarize the empirical relations between a number of alternative occupation-based social classifications. Results indicate similarity between most measures, though there are often quite considerable differences in the properties of related classifications according to the level of detail at which they have been operationalized (such as the number of categories). While these findings may seem unsurprising, they are in conflict with canonical theoretical interpretations attributed to occupation-based measures, where the level of detail is often overlooked, whereas the concepts associated with different measures are emphasized.
The eastern enlargement of the European Union has prompted heated debates about social dumping related to labour standards and industrial relations. Capital mobility is seen as a crucial social dumping mechanism. The article uses time-series-cross-section data for the years 1999–2008 to analyse the determinants of capital flows (FDI) to European countries. It compares German and US FDI in the automotive and chemical industry. The article shows that FDI is influenced by labour standards (in particular protection against dismissals) and industrial relations factors and can be a social dumping mechanism. There are, however, differences according to the industries and the home countries of the investors. US companies try to avoid coordinated collective bargaining, while German companies consider government intervention in collective bargaining negative. The degree of unionization shows no effect on attractiveness for FDI.
The UK construction and transport sectors remain the most heavily male-dominated industries, showing minimal progress in women’s participation. Long and inflexible working hours presume a male model of the worker unconstrained by caring responsibilities. Yet the experiences of the minority of women who work in these sectors are of interest to those concerned with reducing occupational gender segregation. Sexuality is often overlooked in differentiating women’s experience of male-dominated work, and gender conflated with heterosexuality. Through examining the interaction of domestic circumstances and work arrangements of heterosexual women and lesbians, this article finds that atypical domestic circumstances may be required to support male-dominated work. Heterosexual ‘breadwinner’ norms were challenged by women’s capacity for higher earnings from male-dominated work, but often required strategies to manage associated emotions. Evidence from lesbian relationships indicates a possible shift from prioritization of financial self-sufficiency in the context of legal status for same-sex partnerships.
Recent scholarship on work suggests that information and communication technology (ICT) use may be significantly altering job conditions in ways that are indicative of work intensification, which, in turn, contributes to employee strain and distress. This article uses structural equation modelling and OLS regression techniques to analyse 2002 survey data drawn from a nationally representative sample of US employees in order to assess the pathways through which ICT use may influence levels of employee strain and distress. It is found that use is linked to higher levels of employee strain and distress via a work intensification process that is indicated by faster-paced work and greater levels of interruptions and multitasking. However, there is also evidence that both work and personal ICT use may mitigate these influences. While the findings do suggest that ICT use can have negative implications for contemporary workers, as a whole the results support a more nuanced view that points to both costs and benefits associated with ICT use.
This study examines how the educational level of parents with children below age six affects their work arrangements. Based on Austrian microcensus data from 1980 to 2009, multinomial logistic regression models are used to investigate changes in this effect. The findings show converging trends between different educational groups. Couples with children below the age of three whose mothers are highly educated increasingly turn away from the dual breadwinner model and, rather unexpectedly, choose the male breadwinner model. Over the period covered, parents with various combinations of educational attainments opted more and more frequently for the modernized male breadwinner model in which women work part-time. The latter has become the most common arrangement among parents with preschool children. These results are interpreted in the light of institutional and cultural factors, paying special attention to parental leave regulations, the availability of childcare places and attitudes towards mothers’ employment.
The discussion of aesthetic labour has largely been confined to ‘looking good’. However, aesthetic labour also includes ‘sounding right’, where ‘excellent communication skills’ is an almost mandatory component of job advertisements. Much success in the labour market is therefore predicated on employees possessing the right verbal characteristics. In this article empirical research with men who stammer is used to extend our understanding of the issues which surround aesthetic labour. Findings demonstrate routine discrimination – by employers and the men themselves – with reference to a perceived speech–role fit. For the men, aesthetic labour is an embodied emotional labour: representing the effort between what is said and how it is said. Their sometime inability to sound right saw the men seek to enhance their knowledge or emphasize other communication attributes, such as listening. The article highlights the difficulties for anti-discrimination policy to offset the entrenched, socio-cultural nature of what constitutes employability.
Through a study of the butcher trade, this article explores the meanings that men give to ‘dirty work’, that is jobs or roles that are seen as distasteful or ‘undesirable’. Based on qualitative data, we identify three themes from butchers’ accounts that relate to work-based meanings: sacrifice through physicality of work; loss and nostalgia in the face of industrial change; and distinction from membership of a shared trade. Drawing on Bourdieu, we argue that sacrifice and distinction help us understand some of the meanings men attach to dirty, manual work – forming part of a working-class ‘habitus’. Further, these assessments can be both ‘reproductive’ and ‘productive’ as butchers reinforce historically grounded evaluations of work and mobilize new meanings in response to changes in the trade.
Graduates from higher education often enter the labour market with a considerable amount of work experience. Using German data, we address the question of whether early work experience pays off upon labour market entry. We compare the labour market benefits of different types of work experience. This comparison allows us to more generally test hypotheses about different explanations of why education pays off. Results indicate that tertiary graduates do not profit from work experience that is unrelated to the field of study or was a mandatory part of the study programme. Even though field-related and voluntary work experience helps graduates to realize a fast integration into the labour market, it is not linked to higher chances for entering a favourable class position or to higher wages in the long run. These results provide evidence for the signalling explanation of educational benefits in the labour market rather than the human capital explanation.
Despite two decades of stagnation in Japan since 1990, there is remarkably little evidence of radical change in Japanese economic institutions, including employment relations. However, Japan has seen a steady increase in foreign mergers and acquisitions, which can challenge existing institutional patterns.
Women have traditionally been excluded from core membership of the Japanese corporate community. Drawing on case studies of several companies, some acquired, some not, this article examines the impact of foreign ownership on the role of women in the Japanese workplace.
Although prospects for women improve at foreign-acquired companies, this is not necessarily accompanied by a change in attitudes towards gender. The article concludes that while a change of ownership can cause changes in practice, wider societal shifts will be required to alter significantly the position of women in Japanese enterprises.
This article describes the evolution of labour market participation and fertility patterns in Spain among women born between 1956 and 1970. Trajectories are captured by combining partnership, employment and motherhood over a 20-year span (from the age of 16 to the age of 35). Using Optimal Matching Analysis, four different patterns in female trajectories are identified: (1) early marriage/non-working mother/high fertility; (2) late marriage/working mother/low fertility; (3) early marriage/working mother/high fertility; and (4) late marriage/low participation/low fertility. A multinomial probit model contrasts whether or not the patterns found are compatible with the human capital approach to female labour market participation and fertility and/or Hakim’s preference theory. Results show that both theoretical frameworks partly explain the observed trajectories although neither of them, not even both together, suffices to determine female employment and family careers.
Architecture represents a creative, high profile and influential profession and yet remains under-theorized from a gender perspective. This article examines how gender is (re)produced in architecture, a profession that remains strangely under-researched given its status and position. The empirical work advances the theoretical concept of hegemonic masculinity via an analysis of gendered working practices and the agency of individuals through resistance and complicity with these norms. It reveals how architectural practice relies on long working hours, homosocial behaviour and creative control. However, whereas women perform their gender in ways which reproduce such gendered norms, white, heterosexual, middle class men can transgress them to challenge aspects of practice culture. This has significant implications for understanding the ways in which hegemonic masculinities are reproduced within creative workplaces.
Labour-intensive workplaces in export processing zones (EPZs) are typically characterized as ‘sweatshop-like’, devoid of voice mechanisms. Using ethnographic data in a Sri Lankan EPZ apparel factory and focusing on social interaction on the shop floor, the findings demonstrated the way workers exercised formal and informal voice individually and collectively. These findings are understood against a theoretical dialogue between interdisciplinary perspectives of voice across different bodies of literature. Ethnographic insights on the enactment of voice illuminate the importance of worker agency and the social and cultural contextual nature of exercising voice in the workplace.
This article explores the ways in which male traders negotiate ageing in the highly competitive world of finance. It draws on a study of a UK hedge fund to show how ageing processes intersect with masculinity and class-based bodily practices to reproduce market-based ideals of the sector. Through developing the concept of body accumulation, this article provides a new framework for exploring ageing in an organizational context by demonstrating how masculinity, class and organizational values are mapped onto the traders’ bodies over time and in ways that require individuals to continually negotiate their professional value. This not only significantly advances current understanding of how one group of professionals navigate growing older at work, but also highlights the importance of understanding ageing as an accumulation process that takes into account temporal, spatial and cultural dimensions.
This article presents an argument about the reactions of young South Asian men to their economic and social exclusion. In a labour market increasingly characterized by insecurity, where bottom end service employment often demands a feminized ‘service with a smile’ performance, young working class men from minority communities are often disadvantaged in their search for work. It has been argued that in these circumstances a version of protest masculinity and involvement in urban unrest are typical responses. This argument is explored in a racialized minority area of Luton, where right wing organizations attempt to provoke street-based reactions by young men. Instead, ‘radical privatism’, constructed through communal regulation, is a reaction to exceptional provocation, although young men’s involvement in low level street unrest is also common in more ‘normal’ times.
This article examines job satisfaction among judicial officers in Australia. Increasing numbers of women have entered the judiciary and their job satisfaction is a key route to understanding their experiences of this elite role. This paper applies concepts of job satisfaction to the judiciary and investigates gender differences. Data from two national surveys demonstrate that women and men across the Australian judiciary express very high levels of overall job satisfaction, though areas of dissatisfaction exist, in particular regarding work–life balance. Gender differences do not appear to be direct, but mediated by other characteristics which are gender-related. Broadly, these findings demonstrate that a full understanding of job satisfaction now requires attention to family/domestic demands and commitments and the workplace context, as well as to the intrinsic nature of the work and the extrinsic characteristics of the job.
This article tracks workers’ responses to redundancy and impact on the local labour market and regional unemployment policy after the closure of a large employer, Anglesey Aluminium (AA), on Anglesey in North Wales. It questions human capital theory (HCT) and its influence on sustaining neo-liberal policy orthodoxy – focused on supplying skilled and employable workers in isolation from other necessary ingredients in the policy recipe. It is concluded that HCT and associated skills policy orthodoxy are problematic because supply of particular skills did not create demand from employers. Ex-AA workers faced a paradox of being highly skilled but underemployed. Some workers re-trained but there were insufficient (quality) job opportunities. In picking up the pieces after redundancy many workers found themselves part of a labour ‘precariat’ with little choice but to ‘make do and mend’.
The rise in nuclear family households and more married women engaging in paid work have forced governments to address the issue of aged care for the elderly to a greater degree. A good illustration is home care in Japan where the government introduced a Long Term Care Insurance scheme (LTCI) (2000) focused on offering affordable almost universal care by extending existing home care services. Japan’s home care services were privatized in 2006 and, while this is not unique to Japan, the combination of cost-cutting measures and the client-driven model encompassed in the LTCI has had a significant impact on employment conditions and the organization of work in home care services. This research assesses the impact on employment conditions and the organization of work in Japan’s former government-run home care sector compared with the pre-LTCI period and argues that privatization has resulted in work intensification and deteriorating employment conditions.
The article examines cross-national variations in attitudes towards gender roles and the extent to which they map onto regime types. It explores intra-national variation in attitudes to non-traditional gendered behaviour drawing on the theoretical approach of the ‘economy of conventions’, informed by feminist perspectives from comparative research. Data from the European Social Survey are used to map where there is a strong degree of resonance or dissonance between societal and individual attitudes and how these are attenuated by sex and employment status. The results expose unexpected national and intra-national similarities and differences. Societies characterized by a traditional male breadwinner model, such as Spain, indicate a higher degree of permissive values than expected; more liberal countries like the UK show high degrees of indifference, as well as a strong element of traditionalism. Dissonance and indifference compromise traditional gendered conventions and illustrate underlying tensions at the individual and societal level in resolving gender conflicts.
In response to recent terror attacks, Western governments now involve private sector organizations in national security regimes in key strategic areas such as travel, communication and financial services. The UK’s e-Borders programme is one such regime. Its goal is to collect and analyse passport and passenger data from all travellers entering and leaving the UK in advance of travel. Airlines and their supply chains are required to collect data from their customers and transfer it to the UK Border Agency for processing. Using documentary and interview data, this article develops the concept of ‘remediation work’ to characterize the impact of the regime on travel firms and their employees.
This article explores the types of work undertaken by jazz musicians in London, categorizing their activities using two axes derived from debates over ‘creative labour’. Firstly, the extent to which different jobs offer scope for creative autonomy and, secondly, the extent to which they involve collective as opposed to individualized working relationships. It focuses on the process of becoming established on the London ‘scene’, presenting qualitative interview data primarily with young workers seeking to build their careers. Musicians may make conscious decisions to pursue types of work which enable greater creative autonomy, but in doing so they may exacerbate fatalism about poor working conditions and undermine professional solidarity. The article also explores how pressures towards ‘entrepreneurialism’ in other forms of music work constitute further barriers to collective contestation of working conditions. Finally, it points towards types of music work where notions of professional economic interest have more traction.
Given that 60 per cent of the global workforce is in the informal sector, this article develops a typology that classifies economies according to, firstly, where different countries sit on a continuum of informalization and, secondly, the character of their informal sectors. This is then applied to the economies of the 27 member states of European Union (EU-27). Finding a clear divide from east to west and south to north in the EU-27, with the more informalized and wage-based informal economies on the eastern/southern side and the less informalized and more own-account informal economies on the western/Nordic side, it is then revealed that formalization and more own-account informal sectors are significantly correlated with wealthier and more equal (as measured by the gini-coefficient) countries in which there is greater labour market intervention, higher levels of social protection and more effective redistribution via social transfers. The article concludes by discussing the implications for theory and practice.
Older adult care in Ireland and the UK has seen substantial recruitment of migrant registered nurses and care assistants. However, there is little information on recruitment methods in this sector and on how the current immigration systems influence these strategies. This article aims to address this topic through a survey of care organizations and interviews with employers and migrant carers in Ireland and the UK. Recruitment of migrant carers is based on a combination of conventional approaches, informal networks and recruitment agencies. Choice of strategy is dependent on occupation type and the targeted labour pools. Findings demonstrate that immigration regulations effectively dictate the recruitment pools and shape employer recruitment methods.
The expansion of higher education has led to more graduates in the UK labour market. Despite government expectations, this expansion has not boosted national economic competitiveness. This article argues that current understanding of the impact of graduates’ skills is limited by methodological and conceptual narrowness in current research and that a broader research agenda is required. This agenda needs to cover not just the supply but also the demand, development and deployment of graduates’ skills and, as a consequence, distinguish between ‘graduate skills’ acquired in higher education and the ‘skills of graduates’ formed prior to, in and parallel to higher education.
This is an empirically based study of changes in the FE lecturer labour process driven by college managers under pressure from central state targets and funding controls. Two elements of labour management are considered: close observation and professional development. The dialectical dynamic of workplace employment relations is exposed as an endless struggle between managers seeking to degrade the staff through control over task and staff seeking to maintain professional standards to protect themselves and their vision of education. The findings are expressed in the words of the lecturers themselves and reveal the everyday pathology of ever more oppressive workplace labour management in the context of a particular organizational political economy.
This article examines the determinants of perceived job security in German standard employment relationships (SER). Although SERs still dominate and shape the labour market, they have undergone several modifications in the recent past. Using survey data from 2006, the article examines how work organizations and particularly multiple workplace demands influence the perceived job security of employees in SERs. The article also asks whether – 20 years after reunification – structural and cultural differences still exist between East and West Germany. The results show that employees in East German SERs are more willing to accept flexibility and performance requirements. The article suggests that a new psychological contract has emerged, which promises long-term employment only if employees eventually meet the new workplace demands. Yet the overall lower job security of East Germans, fuelled by lower trust in their employers’ information policies, indicates the fragile nature of this arrangement.
This article examines the role of community organizations in generating meaning during a campaign to organize Haitian nursing assistants in Boston, USA. There is by now a sizeable literature on labour-community coalition formation, yet it is not understood how repertoires are generated in the community and how they are translated into the realm of employment relations. This study examines how meanings generated in three community organizations, churches, ethnic media and hometown associations were transferred into the organizing process. Findings indicate that collective identities and political selves constructed through experiences in the community can help low-wage immigrant workers overcome the sense of powerlessness that they often experience at work. Contributions to scholarship on community unionism and mobilization theory are discussed.
This article shows why qualifications built on occupational capacity rather than on trade-based skills have more potential to accommodate the aims of the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and changes in the labour process, going together with the development of occupational labour markets. The article challenges the distinct Anglo-Saxon notion of ‘skill’ attached to a trade-based system of vocational education and training (VET), where qualifications have weak labour market currency. This distinctiveness has implications for EQF implementation, built on common understanding of knowledge, skills and competences and intended to establish equivalence between different occupational qualifications. The article focuses on the example of bricklaying in England and Germany, an occupation archetypal of construction and skilled manual work. Clear differences are identified between bricklaying founded on developing occupational capacity through negotiation and regulation by stakeholders, recognized through qualifications, and bricklaying as a demarcated trade, defined by output and with ‘skills’ distinct from other trades.
A large and enduring employment gap attaches to impairment and disability. Nevertheless, disability remains a neglected area of research in both labour economics and sociology of work when compared to other protected groups. The government has looked to health professionals (Dame Carol Black, and Sir Michael Marmot), rather than to social scientists, for policy advice, including in relation to the workplace. The Black Review charts an improvement in employment prospects for those reporting disability (1998–2007), a reversal of a prior trend. The purpose of this study is to uncover and disentangle the drivers of employment growth for those reporting disability. The effects of changes in group characteristics, some of which may be linked to an increase in the rate of ill health reporting, are considered; and also the effects of changes in the employment structure towards flexible working, the public sector and non-manual jobs. The analysis extends to 2011 to capture the effects of the recession.
This article adopts a socio-cultural lens to examine the role of Buddhism in highly skilled women workers’ careers in Sri Lanka. While Buddhism enabled women’s career development by giving them strength to cope with difficult situations in work, it also seemed to restrict their agency and constrain their career advancement. The article argues, based on its findings, that being perceived as a good Buddhist woman worked as a powerful form of career capital for the respondents in the sample, who used their faith to combat gender disadvantage in their work settings.
In post-industrial societies labour market de-regulation, the growth of non-standard work schedules and shifting gender patterns in the paid labour market are re-shaping family care practices and work/family balance. In this article, the work/family arrangements and practices of nurses are compared with those of builders in Melbourne, Australia. The concept of family time economies is used to explore the intersections of work time and family time. Some change in traditional gender divisions of labour was evident in the nurses’ families but in the builders’ families more traditional gender specialization was displayed. The article contends that the organization of work time shapes the temporal structures of family life. Gendered patterns of employment in sex-segregated industries intersect with gendered family care practices in complicated and sometimes contradictory ways, but gendered differences at work and at home have a significant influence on how time for paid work and care is distributed between parents.
Under-employment and unemployment of immigrants has often been attributed to immigrants’ lack of human capital skills and/or cultural and social capital endowments. Few studies have addressed the fact that despite these possible ‘capital’ disadvantages, immigrant niches are occasionally made in professional fields. Based on an institutional ethnographic study, this article sheds light on this phenomenon. Specifically, it traces some of the hiring practices found within the engineering profession in Canada from the standpoint of Chinese immigrant engineers. It unveils a hard versus soft skill discourse that ideologically relegates minoritized immigrants to the bottom of the hiring queue. It also maps a project-based and network-dependent hiring schema that paradoxically renders immigrants without ‘desirable’ skills simultaneously dismissible and indispensable. It further argues that the skill discourse revealed constitutes a rationalizing mechanism through which racialization and capitalist pursuit of maximum surplus value interact to produce differential opportunities for immigrants at different places and times.
Software work is often depicted as a ‘sunrise occupation’, consisting of knowledge workers that are able to craft stable careers. The aim of this article is to question this account by analysing the experiences of mobile applications developers, with a focus on Apple and Google platforms. The analysis is situated in the context of wider socioeconomic trends and developments in product and technology markets, since these structures frame the working practices of software developers. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork in Sweden, the UK and the USA, the study reveals how changing market structures have given rise to increasingly precarious working conditions and unstable labour markets.
This research note examines why email is underused as a source of data within work and employment studies and provides an example of the usefulness of email for gaining a more detailed understanding of behaviour in the workplace. Three main reasons are identified for the hesitancy to use email as a source of data. Firstly, the confused role of email as formal and informal archival data as well as concerns regarding the immediate often non-deliberated exchanges; secondly, issues with access to and confidentiality of email data; finally, the challenges of triangulation of a data set which includes email data. The analysis of emails between virtual team members, alongside observational and interview methods, demonstrates how interactions between colleagues via email are subtly different to the way in which organizational members describe relationships in an interview situation and reveals how access to email data provides an additional resource in understanding behaviours within the workplace.
Critical concerns have been raised about the quality of employment in the offshore service sector in developing countries, suggesting that many activities have an inherent paradox of highly educated workers performing low-skilled jobs. Based on empirical data collected in the offshore service sector in Baguio City (the Philippines), this article analyses the knowledge and skills acquisition of workers using the concepts of employability and generic skills. The article demonstrates that offshore service sector work is part of a longer-term career planning of workers and an opportunity for strengthening their employability on the global labour market. The early stage of development of the offshore service sector provides workers with opportunities for local upward labour mobility. The article argues that the sector should be looked at from an employee-based perspective that emphasizes their employability and generic skills acquisition in order to understand the longer-term benefits of the sector for developing countries.
A range of literature has attempted to reconceptualize union agendas for firm-level restructuring by identifying variety in local union strategic responses. This article explores the conditions under which local unions respond strategically to company restructuring in the Netherlands, Italy and Ireland. Two distinct types of union strategies are identified: confrontation based on ‘job protection’; cooperation based on ‘job transition’. Evidence suggests that different combinations of structural and socio-political firm-level conditions encourage the choice of specific union strategy. Understanding the nature and the interactions between firm-level contextual factors, within a broader institutional setting during restructuring, is important to provide a fuller explanation for the variety of strategic choices facing local unions.
Extant theories of member participation in unions have sought mainly to explain spot decisions to participate in collective action and therefore are limited in explaining how members can have an impact on union governance. This article conceptualizes life-long activism as informal careers that begin with politicizing life experiences, are nurtured through the fulfilment of organizational roles and develop by gaining status and skills both within the union and in the members’ community. Data are reported from the Los Angeles Justice for Janitors campaign two decades after initial mobilization occurred there. Existing literature has depicted activism as a response to calculus and stimulus rather than as a search for meaningful work. An alternative perspective is advanced where the force of a calling acts as the main driver of activism in which the union is seen as a vehicle for the pursuit of social justice.
Frontline healthcare worker jobs are among the fastest growing occupations in the USA. While many of these are ‘bad jobs’ with low pay and few benefits, the intrinsic nature of frontline work can also be very rewarding. This article examines the influence of extrinsic job characteristics (e.g. wages and benefits) versus intrinsic characteristics (e.g. meaningful tasks) on job satisfaction and intent to stay with one’s current employer. This article uses a mixed-methods approach, drawing on survey data collected from frontline workers and organizations in a variety of healthcare settings, as well as interview and focus group data from frontline workers to contextualize and interpret the findings in the multi-level models. The results indicate that both intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics are significant predictors of job satisfaction, but only extrinsic characteristics help explain intent to stay with the employer.
The purpose of this study is to explore changes in career mobility in the US labour market during the late 1990s and early 2000s, a period in which career boundaries weakened and workers’ employment options became increasingly flexible. Using multiple panel data of a nationally representative sample of US employees between 1990 and 2003, the pattern of workers’ short-term movement across various types of boundaries in the labour market is analysed, as well as change over time and by skill group. The result shows that although the probability of switching firms increased for all workers, the career trajectories of lower-skilled groups showed increasingly opposite trends from those of higher-skilled groups. In particular, occupational immobility was reduced significantly for workers in lower-skilled occupations, yet their changes of occupation occurred mainly within their origin class, resulting in strengthening of class boundaries. Implications of this finding are discussed in light of recent debate on class stratification.
Evidence from a range of sources suggests that customer abuse to service workers is a significant phenomenon. This article argues that a large part of customer abuse is endogenously created within the fabric of the service economy. Thirty book-length ethnographies were coded for relevant data and a fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis was undertaken. The findings show that frequent customer abuse is associated with a configuration of the promotion of customer sovereignty (at organizational, sectoral and national levels), the weak position of labour, the higher social status position of customers vis-à-vis workers and the structuring of service interactions as encounters.
Recent scholarship examines multiple types of emotion management but these efforts are limited by the absence of service recipients’ perspectives. Using interviews with personal home care clients in Toronto, this article extends discussions of emotion management. Both management and recipients expect the worker to respectfully meet and anticipate clients’ individual needs but this is relational service, not emotional labour, because it is motivated by relationship building. Most clients also want caring work but it is unclear if and when this is part of the job. This preferred emotion management stems neither from explicit organizational rules nor implicit social rules, but from organizational signals informally communicated to workers by recipients. Some recipients send social signals for care beyond the job, which can take the form of unpaid labour or friendship. The article offers an extended typology of emotion management that can incorporate clients, managers and workers as actors in service work.
The article seeks to explain how institutions change within varieties of capitalism, focusing on an important institution for the world of work: wage bargaining. Although there is a widespread expectation that liberalization and firms’ needs for flexibility brings convergence to the liberal market model of decentralized industrial relations, recent literature suggests that diversity persists and that there are a range of different responses. This article contributes to the debate by applying a coalitional perspective to highlight the factors that influence divergent trajectories of change in wage bargaining. The case studies of Italian and Greek banking suggest that the existence of ‘employer associability’ may moderate decentralizing tendencies and facilitate the reform of industrial relations institutions, while ‘labour–state coalitions’ are critical for the survival of institutions. Finally, the article discusses the findings in relation to wider debates in the comparative political economy of work.
The article analyses the impact of vertical disintegration on German labour relations. Previous research argued that the proliferation of outsourcing, divestment and non-standard employment results in a ‘dualism’ between a core of secure workplaces and a growing fringe of precarious jobs. Evidence from two key sectors, metalworking and telecommunications, however, suggest that this clear-cut division is replaced by a fragmented landscape of labour relations. In terms of institutional change, the analysis reveals a specific form of incremental transformative change, namely a shift in the meaning of formally stable legal-political institutions. Even in the allegedly stable core areas, the institutions of labour relations are gradually transformed from market-constituting institutions to market-dependent variables. Vertical disintegration plays an important role in this process of institutional commodification. It not only moves the core–periphery boundary; it is also deployed to subjugate collective bargaining, workplace co-determination and the utilization of labour law to firm-level economic calculations.
Occupational health and safety (OHS) is under-researched in the sociology of work and employment. This deficit is most pronounced for white-collar occupations. Despite growing awareness of the significance of psychosocial conditions – notably stress – and musculoskeletal disorders, white-collar work is considered by conventional OHS discourse to be ‘safe’. This study’s locus is clerical processing in the UK public sector, specifically Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, in the context of efficiency savings programmes. The key initiative was lean working, which involved redesigned workflow, task fragmentation, standardization and individual targets. Utilizing a holistic model of white-collar OHS and in-depth quantitative and qualitative data, the evidence of widespread self-reported ill-health symptoms is compelling. Statistical tests of association demonstrate that the transformed work organization that accompanied lean working contributed most to employees’, particularly women’s, ill-health complaints.
The labour of interactive service work, particularly its emotional and aesthetic dimensions, has been the focus of significant research. This article investigates the occupational practices of perhaps one of the most immediately recognizable of interactive service workers, the Santa Claus performer. Through a series of observations and in-depth, semi-structured interviews, it explores both the conditions of employment encountered by these workers and the practices and techniques by which they aim to bring a level of authenticity – one perceived to be unparalleled in similar roles both service and theatrical – to their performance. In doing so, the article explores work characterized by the pursuit of interpersonal recognition derived from the self-esteem that is desired and, in many instances, achieved from the perceived authenticity of this performance, that is, by being Santa Claus.