The division of labour in post-industrial societies
This dissertation is a study of how work is distributed in so-called post-industrial societies. The main question it addresses is how the division of labour in complex societies is developing. That is, what occupations are increasing or decreasing their shares within the occupational structure, and how can these changes be understood? For many years it has been argued that advanced Western societies are leaving the industrial era and entering a so-called post-industrial phase. The primary feature of this alleged post-industrial development is a shift from the primacy of goods production to a dominance of service production. According to some scholars this change means that repetitive manual labour is becoming more and more rare and is gradually being replaced by a whole set of highly skilled occupations based on theoretical knowledge. On the other hand, there are also those who have predicted a large increase among low-skill service occupations, something which should result in an occupational structure primarily characterised by a polarisation between high-skill and low-skill service workers. It has further been argued that different countries will develop different employment structures because of differences in their welfare-state arrangements. The studies that are presented in this thesis represent attempts to capture the essence of the division of labour in so-called post-industrial societies. Five economically advanced Western countries (Canada, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and the United States) are studied regarding such aspects as industrial and occupational employment changes, occupational sex segregation, and changes in educational attainment. Also, the conceptual framework for occupational classifications is analysed and discussed. The countries are studied with the help of official statistics, and, in particular, occupational employment data are utilised in a number of ways. Occupational data are presented on several levels of aggregation and organised according to different classifications in order to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of these countries’ division of labour. The empirical results primarily support the proposition of a universal upgrading of the occupational structure. It is quite clear that the development in these countries is towards more jobs with higher educational requirements, which is connected to the increase in the overall educational attainment of the countries’ populations. Second, a growth of low-skill service occupations has not been identified in any of these countries. Thus, the pessimistic image of a polarisation does not receive any support in this study. Third, the shifts that have been observed in the occupational structures of these countries have occurred concomitantly with women’s increased participation in paid work. Hence, it seems as if a correlation between welfare-state regime and the occupational structure to some degree is a question about women’s economic activity. Keywords: post-industrial society, division of labour, occupational classification, occupational structure, welfare state, sex segregation, education.
Sociologiska institutionen, Göteborgs universitet
Hansen, Lars H.
Arbete och arbetsmarknad
Göteborg studies in sociology