High-end success boosts growth of low-paid staff

A
£4m study into the future of work in the UK claims we are moving to an
‘hourglass economy’, with a proliferation of high-paid jobs fuelling the growth
of low-paid, routine and unskilled employment.

The
programme – involving 100 researchers and 22 universities, led by professor
Peter Nolan of Leeds University Business School – said previous assumptions
that the UK is heading for a future of dead-end jobs or a bright new world of
high-tech workers are wrong.

Nolan
said that while people at the top are enjoying substantial discretion over the
hours, places and patterns of their working time, more people now work as
carers, cleaners and drivers – carrying out low-paid tasks for the high
earners.

"The
world of work is changing, but there are also important continuities,"
Nolan said.

"There’s
a lot of talk about the ‘new economy’, that our working lives are radically
different from 10 years ago, but the research has shown this simply isn’t true.
Only a minority of workers have been affected by new technology, which in most
cases just provides different reasons to do traditional work.

"Things
may increasingly be sold over the internet, but shelf packers, warehouse staff,
drivers and telephone operators are still needed to ensure those goods reach
the customer."

Twenty-seven
projects have been carried out under the programme. One of the pieces of
research – the Working in Britain survey, completed in 2000 – found that far
from a uniform culture of casualisation, full-time permanent employment
dominates, and the proportion of those with permanent jobs has increased since
the early 1990s (90 per cent in 2000, 80 per cent in 1992).

A
survey carried out by the Office of National Statistics into UK employees’
experiences of work showed that the total number of manual workers has remained
stable at around 10.5 million, despite the erosion of jobs in manufacturing.

By
Quentin Reade

 

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