Social Inequality - Workplace and Class

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Social Inequality and Difference Emma Rudd
1C Class and Workplace
As the economic structure of Britain has changed, so has its occupational pattern's. Since the
early 1980's there has been a substantial change in the composition of the workforce: more
women, a better qualified workforce, a growing service sector, and contracting manufacturing
sector, more nonmanual jobs and fewer manual jobs, more private sector and less public sector
employment, more part time work' (Bryson and Gomez, 2002). These changes affect class,
gender and ethnic inequalities.
There is a direct link between social class and the workplace, because class is usually defined
by a person's occupation. So it is only to be expected that economic and occupational changes
will have a significant impact on class.
Occupational Change
Gallie (2000) describes the long term transformation of the occupational structure in Britain. In
the first half of the 20th century there was a growth in clerical work (especially among women)
and a significant expansion of professions, but manual work still dominated. The second half of
the century saw a sharp decline e in the numbers of manual workers (especially unskilled
workers) and a spectacular expansion in professional and managerial groups. By the end of the
20th century the workforce consisted of a fairly even division between 3 broad occupational
groups: professionals/managerial, `intermediate' (lower ranks of white collar workers), and
manual.
It is not only the size of the social classes that have changed. The nature of the work, too, has
been greatly affected by the move towards a more flexible PostFordist economy. For example
manual workers find that the new service sector jobs have a different character: `The old working
class was employed in coal mines, shipyards, steel plants and engineering workshops the new
working class is employed in supermarkets, security firms, contract cleaners, fast food and other
catering establishments, and suchlike'. (Roberts 2001)
Class Inequalities
It is foolish to deny that there is still a hierarchy of occupations and classes in Britain. Class
differences in the workplace lead to huge income inequalities. Roberts (2001) argues that the
middle classes still enjoy considerable financial and other advantages, and that is why they are
so anxious that their children do not drop down into the working class. Skilled manual workers
have suffered from the decline of manufacturing and the move to a flexible economy. Indeed
manual workers in manufacturing have been the main victims of `outsourcing' abroad over the
past 20 years or so.
Denny (2003) reports that not all of them have managed to find alternative jobs. In the worst hit
areas, such as the old coalfields, many manual workers took early retirement or went benefit,
with painful consequences for families and communities. Other found jobs that were not as well
paid as the ones they had lost.
In general it is difficult to deny that middle class workers enjoy marked advantages. For example
semiskilled and unskilled manual workers are four times more likely than professional and
managerial groups to become unemployed (Brown et al 2002). If working, they are more likely to
be on casual, temporary or part time contracts.
The impact of workplace Changes
As the economic structure of Britain has changed, so has its occupational patterns. Since the
early 1980's there has been a substantial change in the composition of the workforce: more
women, a better qualified workforce, a growing service sector, and contracting manufacturing

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Social Inequality and Difference Emma Rudd
sector, more nonmanual jobs and fewer manual jobs, more private sector and less public sector
employment, more part time work' (Bryson and Gomez, 2002). These changes affect class,
gender and ethnic inequalities.
Class Formation and Identity
Cromptom (2000) notes the occupational structure is not a fixed system of `slots'.…read more

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Social Inequality and Difference Emma Rudd
Class Maps
The class map of Britain has altered over the years under the impact of deep social and
economic changes. There are still some familiarities such as the huge contrast between those at
the top and those at the bottom. But there have been shifts and movements so the old upper,
middle and working classes need to be revised.…read more

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Social Inequality and Difference Emma Rudd
accepted and sponsored by powerful people who share the same values. According to Scott
(1991) the upperclass consists of a series of intersecting status circles. What they have in
common I a remarkable level of self confidence and a well developed sense of their
exclusiveness and social superiority. This exclusiveness is reinforced buy their close kinship
links. They often marry people in these same circles.…read more

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Social Inequality and Difference Emma Rudd
Scott (1986) points out that not all capitalists are politically active, and not all leading holders of
political power are drawn from a business background. He thinks it might be more accurate to
think in terms of power bloc: an informal coalition of social groups (e.g. governments, capitalists,
trade unions) which is based on compromises between the different partners. The capitalist
business class increasingly finds it can exercise power only by working through these coalitions.…read more

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Social Inequality and Difference Emma Rudd
but he believes cultural capital is becoming ever more important to the middle class. Traditional
class markers such as the divide between manual and non manual workers have become
weaker and so the middle classes are developing new forms of cultural capital in order to
distinguish themselves from other groups in society.
Individualisation
Savage (2000) suggests that middle class careers have become more individualised.…read more

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Social Inequality and Difference Emma Rudd
leading markedly workcentred lifestyles. They are supreme champions of individualism (people
should stand on their own feet rather than rely on the state) and hard work and discipline.
Middle Class Insecurity
Roberts (2001) describes the growing sense of insecurity and anxiety among the middle
classes. Many of them feel their perks and privileges are under threat. Also they are increasingly
desperate to ensure their children do well at school, so they avoid falling down the social class
ladder.…read more

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Social Inequality and Difference Emma Rudd
Deskilling is most common in mass production industries but only a majority of workers
are employed in these industries. PostFordists argue that nowadays more people are
engaged in `people work' and in jobs which require flexibility and a widening of skills.
Braverman neglects the important role of gender. Women's skill levels tend to be under
rated because of the low value attached to `women's work'.
Research evidence suggests that deskilling is patchy rather than universal.…read more

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Social Inequality and Difference Emma Rudd
Respectability
There was an important divide within the working class between `roughs' and
`respectable'. The traditional working class held respectable values (e.g. honesty and
work ethic) and they tried to maintain decent moral standards.
Community
The traditional working class lived in close knit communities (urban villages). People had
long connections with their locality and they built up large circles of friends and
acquaintances. Occasionally there were bitter feuds and conflicts but at least people
were not anonymous.…read more

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