Sociology 1st Semester Final 2169 Notes.docx

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22 Apr 2012
To what extent require skill?
Theories disagree
Historical trends are not clear
Why important?
o Work that requires skill enhances sense of mastery, self-esteem, pride and status
o Skilled work seen as more fulfilling
o Work identified as requiring skill pays better
Broad Trends
Adam Smith: believed that divisions of labour, technology, repetition and specialization actually
o enhances them-leads to more productivity and provided more skill
Marx: capitalists will increase surplus value if use technology, organizational change to produce
more with less skilled workers, because skilled workers are more expensive workers, he believed
in deskilling
Weber: also believed in deskilling, and believed need for skilled labour would decrease
However semi-skilled workers division
o Specialist in narrower areas
o Need training but less
o Also believed like smith, narrower work produced more productivity
Historical Trends (implications for skill)
Scientific management, Fordism, said to decrease skill
o If left alone the employees would participate in soldiering
Expansion of managerial, professional, and other planning jobs imply increase
Some suggest polarization
Skill Trends
o Work is fragmented, simplified and controlled, such that working requires less skill than
it once did
Workers are denied opportunity to use skills formerly exercised at work
Skill Upgrading
o Work requires more skill than it once did. Workers have to acquire new skills to keep up
Braverman: control of work is increasingly being removed from workers
o Two trends: deskilling, skill polarization
Bell: labour market change with the expansion of the service economy leads to skill upgrading
o more employment in jobs requiring skill
(Today, service sector is actually associated with skill polarization; its distribution is bifurcated)
Knowledge economy argument
o With technological change, workforce is more educated
o Working now seen to require an intelligence that working did not require in the past
Relationship between education and skill is problematic
This makes determining skill trends difficult
o Just because someone has education, doesn’t mean they exercise skill on the job
Credential Inflation
Tendency for education requirement for jobs to increase; whether or not more skill is required
o Is related to social closure
Cutting off access to skilled jobs by raising requirements
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Also tendency for employers to want to hire most educated workers regardless of skill demands
of job
Historical evidence
o Professions: raising training length to reduce number of practitioners, increase status
o Trades: raise training length to reduce entry thus increase bargaining power of job
Organized workers better able to define work as skilled
o Unorganized workers are less powerful so there are not as successful
It is hard to tell sometimes whether skill changes are real or apparent (especially when looking
only looking at only education)
Research Findings
1) Case studies- skill decline
2) Aggregate studies- no change over time or slight increase
How both?
o Labour market trends vs. occupational trends
3) Skill distribution is polarized
o Myles: divisions within categories- blue collar, white collar, managerial between skilled
and less skilled
What is Skill?
Knowledge combined with proficiency and/or dexterity in performance, acquired through
training and experience
Can we measure it?
Extremely difficult; also hard to compare different types of skill, assess amounts
Education and training time are common proxy measures
o But with inflation these can be flawed
o Amount of knowledge, and manual skill demonstrates are also included
Skill in worker and skill required in job may differ
Some types of skill (ex. Interpersonal) have tended to be undervalued
Thus skill is difficult to define; our understanding of it is shaped by historical and political
processes; an object of social struggle
Social and Political Struggles
Professional, trades, have succeeded in cutting off access to skills
Campaign to protect skills and have skills recognized
Cultural Issues
Social beliefs about what skills are important and what are not
o May have influenced job classifications
Gender, race and age can affect our perceptions of skill
Many Skills can go unrecognized
Tacit Skills
Knowledge of procedures equipment, customers preferences and culture
Working Knowledge
Strategies developed by workers to improve their ability to work (often also improve the quality
of their output)
*Measure of skill are embedded in job classifications used by the government, others
o Ex. General educational Development; specific vocational preparation, cognitive
complexity routine activity
Who is Skilled?
Industry and Skill
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High skill: business and public services, high tech
Semi-skilled: manufacturing, some technical jobs
Low Skill: Food services, recreation, and accommodation, personal services
Age-affects perception of skill
o Younger workers often in less skilled jobs
o Older workers sometimes seen to lock skill and some time seen to have it
o Middle ages typically apper to be more skilled
o Education and training time affect perception as well
o Med predominate in high school, and low skill, women in middle skill category
o Complex but some visible minorities cluster in low-skill jobs
o Shapes perception of skill, also access to tacit, insider knowledge skills
o Lower returns on education
o Skills and credentials sometimes no recognized
o Can also shape perception of skill and access to skills
Belief that work is more controlled now than in the past
Formal rules and hierarchies
Less clear, flexibility, lee way
Responsible Autonomy
White collar, managerial technical jobs
Skilled and creative workers
Expectation of keeping busy, doing work but allowed leeway
Keep skilled workers
Skills and Training
Skills crucial to economic success
Canadians tended to get skills and training on their own or through formal education
Highly educated
Low access to employer based training
Why don’t employers want to train workers?
Still many workers have access to workplace supported training
Gnerally more skilled workers have more opportunity to get more skills and training
o Highly educated, professional/managerial
o Those with few skills have less opportunit to get more on own
o Can create a negative cycle
Does technology deskill or upgrade work?
Tech change accompanied by work reorganization geared towards rationalizing work process
Larger firms, larger markets
Radical introduction may indicate to deskill, reduce costs, increase efficiency
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