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Chapter 13

SOCA02H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 13: Labor Market Segmentation, Deskilling, Harry Braverman

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Sheldon Ungar

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Chapter 13: Work and the Economy
Economic Sectors and Revolutions
- economy
- The institution that organizes the production, distribution, and exchange of goods and services.
- conventionally, analysts divide the economy into three sectors
- the primary sector includes farming, fishing, logging, and mining
- in the secondary sector, raw materials are turned into finished goods; manufacturing takes place
- finally, in the tertiary sector, services are bought and sold
- these services include the work of nurses, teachers, lawyers, hairdressers, computer programmers, and so on
- often, the three sectors of the economy are called the agricultural, manufacturing, and service sectors
- each economic sector rose to dominance through a revolution in the way people work, and each revolution sharply restructured social inequality:
- the agricultural revolution
- productivity
- The amount of goods or services produced for every hour worked.
- the industrial revolution
- markets
- Social relations that regulate the exchange of goods and services. In a market, the prices of goods and services are established by
how plentiful they are (supply) and how much they are wanted (demand).
- the postindustrial revolution
- service jobs were rare in pre-agricultural societies because nearly everyone had to do physical work for the tribe to survive
The Division and Hierarchy of Labour
- division of labour
- The specialization of work tasks. The more specialized the work tasks in a society, the greater the division of labour.
The Deskilling Thesis
- Harry Braverman proposed one view of the future of work
- he argued that owners (capitalists) organize work to maximize profits
- one way to increase profits is to break complex tasks into simple routines
- this increased division of labour in the workforce has three important consequences
- first, employers can replace workers with machinery
- second, given the simplification of work, employers can replace skilled workers with less expensive, unskilled workers
- third, employers control workers more directly since less worker discretion and skill is needed to complete each task
- as a result, the future of work, as Braverman saw it, involves a deskilling trend
- deskilling
- The process by which work tasks are broken into simple routines requiring little training to perform. Deskilling is usually accompanied by the use of
machinery to replace labour wherever possible and increase management control over workers.
- Fordism
- A method of industrial management based on assembly-line methods of producing inexpensive, uniform commodities in high volume.
- scientific management
- Developed in the 1910s by Frederick W. Taylor, is a system for improving productivity. After analyzing the movements of workers as they did their jobs,
Taylor trained them to eliminate unnecessary actions. This technique is also known as Taylorism.
- sociologists lodged several criticisms against Braverman’s deskilling thesis, perhaps the most serious of which was that her was not so much wrong as irrelevant
- that is, even if his characterization of factory work was accurate, factory workers represent only a small proportion of labour force – and a smaller proportion every
year, as the manufacturing sector shrinks and the service sector expands
Part-Time Work
- the growth of part-time work in Canada has added to concern about the erosion of meaningful, dignified employment
- for two reasons, the expansion of part-time work is not a serious problem in itself
- first, some part-time jobs are good jobs
- second, some people want to work part time and can afford to do so
- although the growth of part-time jobs is not problematic for voluntary part-time workers or people who have good part-time jobs, an increasingly large number of
people depend on part-time work for the necessities of full-time living
- and the plain fact is that most part-time jobs are bad jobs
- thus, part-time workers make up about two-thirds of the people working at or below minimum wage
- moreover, the fastest-growing category of part-time workers comprises involuntary part-timers
- the difficulty of maintain your dignity as a fast-food worker is compounded by the high premium most young people place on independence, autonomy, and respect
- the problem this create for teenagers who take jobs in fast-food restaurants is that their constant deference to customers violate the norms of youth culture
- therefore, fast-food workers are typically stigmatized by their peers
- they are frequently the brunt of insults and ridicule
- fast-food workers indoubtedly represent an extreme case of the indignity endured by part-timers
- however, the problem exists in various guises in many part-time jobs
- thus, the form and depth of degradation may vary from one part-time job to another but, as your own work experience may show, degradation seems to be a
universal feature of this type of deskilled work
A Critique of the Deskilling Thesis
- the deskilling thesis captured the trend toward the simplification of previously complex jobs, but it paints an incomplete picture insofar it focuses on the bottom of
the occupational hierarchy
- taking a broader perspective and examining the entire occupational structure, we find that not all jobs are being deskilled
- deskilling seems to be occurring mainly in jobs that are characteristic of the old economy, such as assembly-line manufacturing, rather than the new economy,
such as biotechnology and informatics
- how has the introduction of information technology affected workers’ skills and income?
- research suggests that computers magnify pay differences among skill levels
- they augment high skill levels but replace low skill levels
- people in high-skill occupations, like design or editing, earn higher wages if they use computers at work
- in contrast, people who use, say, a computerized cash register require little new training
- their hourly wage is unaffected by the introduction of the new technology – but their work hours are often reduced
- these findings suggest that the introduction of computers tends to enlarge the number and quality of good jobs and reduce the number of bad jobs
- however, it does not improve the quality of bad jobs
The Social Relations of Work
- the rise of a more knowledge-intensive economy has had a big impact on the social relations of work
- the industrial revolution began an era of work that required brute force and obedience to authority
- with the spinning jenny, the assembly line, and the increasing use of machinery in production, more and more work became industrialized
- workers were closely supervised in factory settings, and an increasing division of labour meant that the skill content of certain jobs eroded
- as Clement and Myles argue, the skill content of the entire labour process has risen, although much of that skill content now resides in managerial and
administrative spheres
- after the Industrial Revolution, a managerial revolution took place
- it involved the separation of conception and execution
- more of the job of conception shifted to the managerial and administrative realm
- the rise of a managerial class that began with the advent of the manufacturing era has intensified in the postindustrial service revolution
Labour Market Segmentation
- the period from about 1820 to 1890 was one of initial proletarianization in North America
- during this period, a large industrial working class replaced craft workers in small workshops
- then, from the end of the nineteenth century until the start of World War II, the labour market entered the phase of labour homogenization
- extensive mechanization and deskilling took place during this stage
- finally, the third phase of labour market development is that of labour market segmentation
- labour market segmentation
- The division of the market for labour into distinct settings. In these settings, work is found in different ways and workers have different characteristics.
There is only a slim chance of moving from one setting to another.
- during this stage, which began after World War II and continues to the present, large business organizations emerged
- thousands of small businesses continue to exist at this stage
- however, different kinds of jobs are associated with small businesses than with large business organizations
- good jobs with security and relatively high wages tend to be concentrated in large firms, while smaller businesses cannot afford the same wages and job security
- the result is a segmented labour market
- in these two different settings, workers, and the work they do, have different characteristics:
- primary labour market
- Comprises mainly highly skilled, well-educated workers. They are employed in large corporations that enjoy high levels of capital investment. In the
primary labour market, employment is secure, earnings are high, and fringe benefits are generous.
- secondary labour market
- Contains a disproportionately large number of women and members of ethnic minority groups, particularly recent immigrants. Employees in the
secondary labour market tend to be unskilled and lack higher education. They work in small firms that have low levels of capital investment. Employment
is insecure, earnings are low, and fringe benefits are meagre.
- this characterization may seem to advance us only a little beyond our earlier distinction between good jobs and bad jobs
- however, proponents of labour market segmentation theory offer fresh insights into two important issues
- first, they argue that people find work in different ways in the two labour markets
- second, they point out that social barriers make it difficult for individuals to move from one labour market to the other
Worker Resistance and Management Response
- human relations school of management
- Emerged in the 1930s as a challenge to Taylor’s scientific management approach. It advocated less authoritarian leadership on the shop floor, careful
selection and training of personnel, and greater attention to human needs and employee job satisfaction.
- in follow decades, owners and managers of big companies in all the rich industrialized countries realized they had to make still more concessions to labour if they
wanted a loyal and productive workforce
- the two main types of decision-making innovations that have been introduced in the factories of the rich industrialized countries since the early 1970s:
- reforms that give workers more authority on the shop floor include those advanced by the quality of work life movement
- quality of work life
- Movement originated in Sweden and Japan. It involves small groups of a dozen or so workers and managers collaborating to improve both the quality of
goods produced and communication between workers and managers.
- reforms that allow workers to help formulate overall business strategy give workers more authority than do quality circles
- codetermination
- A German system of worker participation that allows workers to help formulate overall business strategy. German workers’ councils review and influence
management policies on a wide range of issues, including when and where new plants should be built and how capital should be invested in
technological innovation.
- unions have clearly played a key role in increasing worker participation in industrial decision making since the 1920s and especially since the 1970s
- to varying degrees, owner and managers of big corporations have conceded authority to workers to create a more stable, loyal, and productive workforce
- understandably, workers who enjoy more authority in the workplace, whether unionized or not, have tried to protect the gains they have won
Unions and Professional Organizations
Organizations of workers that seek to defend and promote their members' interests.
by bargaining with employers, unions have succeeded in winning improved working conditions, higher wages, and more worker participation in industrial decision
making for their members
one indicator of the power of unions is that the hourly wage gap between unionized and nonunionized full-time workers is about $3, and the hourly wage gap
between unionized and nonunionized part-time workers is about $7
internal labour markets
Social mechanisms for controlling pay rates, hiring, and promotions within corporations while reducing competition between a firm's workers and external
labour supplies.
in an internal labour market, training programs that specify the credentials required for promotion govern advancement through the ranks
seniority rules specify the length of time a person must serve in a given position before being allowed to move up
these rules also protect senior personnel from layoffs according to the principle of “last hired, first fired”
finally, in internal labour markets, recruitment of new workers is usually limited to entry-level positions
in this way, the intake of new workers is controlled
senior personnel are assured the promotion and protection from outside competition
for this reason, internal labour markets are sometimes called “labour market shelters”
labour market shelters operate not only among unionized factory workers but also among professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, and engineers
People with specialized knowledge acquired through extensive higher education.
they enjoy a high degree of work autonomy and usually regulate themselves and enforce standards through professional associations
they operate according to a code of ethics that emphasizes the altruistic nature of their work
finally, they specify the credentials needed to enter their professions and thus maintain a cap on the supply of new professionals
this practice reduces competition, ensures high demand for their services, and keeps their earnings high
Barriers between the Primary and Secondary Labour Markets
workers find it difficult to exit the “job ghettos” of the secondary labour market, because three social barriers make the primary labour market difficult to penetrate:
1. often, there are few entry-level positions in the primary labour market
one set of circumstances that contributes to the lack of entry-level positions in the primary labour market is corporate “downsizing” and plant shutdowns
the lack of entry-level positions is especially acute during periods of economic recession
2. workers often lack informal networks linking them to good job openings
people frequently find out about job availability through informal networks of friends and acquaintances
these networks often consist of people with the same ethnic and racial backgrounds
recent immigrants, especially refugees, who compose a disproportionately large share of workers in the secondary labour market and tend not to be
white, are less likely than others are to find out about job openings in the primary labour market, where the labour force is disproportionately white
3. workers usually lack the required training and certification for jobs in the primary labour market
what is more, because of their low wages and scarce leisure time, they usually cannot afford to upgrade their skills or their credentials
The Time Crunch and Its Effects
stress is the feeling of being unable to cope with life's demands given one's resources
work is the leading source of stress throughout the world
connected to rising stress is the rate of severe depression
there are three main reasons that leisure is on the decline and the pace of work is becoming more frantic for many people in the paid labour force
first, effective corporate advertising is pushing Canadians to consume goods and services at higher and higher levels all the time
to satisfy these advertising-induced “needs,” people must work longer
second, most corporate executives apparently think it is more profitable to push employees to work more hours than to hire new employees and pay expensive
benefits for them
third, most Canadian workers in the private sector are not in a position to demand reduced working hours and more vacation time because few of them are
they lack clout and suffer the consequences in terms of stress, depression, and other work-related ailments
one conclusion we can draw from the preceding discussion is that the secondary labour market is a relatively free market
free market
Prices are determined only by supply and demand.
if supply is high and demand is low, wages fall
if demand is high and supply is low, wages rise
in contrast, the primary labour market is more a regulated market
regulated market
Various social forces limit the capacity of supply and demand to determine prices.
our analysis suggests that the freer the market, the higher the resulting levels of social inequality
in the freest markets, many of the least powerful people are unable to earn enough to subsist, while a few of the most powerful people can amass huge fortunes
because of this propensity to growing inequality, the secondary labour market cannot be entirely free
Canadian governments have had to establish a legal minimum wage to prevent the price of unskilled labour from dropping below the point at which people are
literally unable to make a living
the question of whether free or regulated markets are better for society lies at the centre of much debate in economics and politics, but the dichotomy is too
first, no markets are completely unregulated
regulation is always a matter of degree, as the varied structure of markets across cultures and historical periods demonstrates
second, the degree and type of market regulation depends on how much power, norms, and values are distributed among various social groups
the “neoclassical” school of contemporary economics challenges this understanding of the social dimension of markets
instead of focusing on how power, norms, and values shape markets, neoclassical economists argue that free markets maximize economic growth
according to neoclassical economists, if the minimum wage is eliminated entirely, everyone will be better off
for example, in a situation where labour is in low demand and high supply, wages will fall, increasing profits