Nothing stands still. We are aware that the labour market is in constant flux, expanding and contracting with the economic cycle. But like other institutions it is also in a continual process of change and renewal, adapting to new technology and other social and economic innovations, so that the composition and character of jobs and workers do not stand still. These changes are concealed by the highly standardized way in which national statistics are collected and published, and by the fixed concepts, of employment and a job, on which they rest. Labour market statistics have their rigidities too. It is only when researchers gain access to microdata from the large national datasets that we can begin to discover the changes and innovations hidden behind the smooth continuities of official statistics. The release of the 1% and 2% Samples of Anonymised Records from the British 1991 Census provided a golden opportunity to do just this. This book presents the results. As expected, it offers many surprises.
While the dataset is British, the labour market issues addressed in the analysis pertain to all advanced industrial societies. They include some of the most topical questions that are currently the focus of research in Europe, the USA, and other countries. Changing patterns of work commitment, the redistribution of employment between full-time and part-time workers, changes in the sexual division of labour, innovations in the organization of working time, and changes in work organization are contributing to substantial changes in the nature of work and employment in the 1990s and beyond that into the 21st century ( Gladstone, 1992; Howard, 1995; Hakim, 1996a; Crompton, Gallie, and Purcell, 1996). Some argue that employment itself and the standard job offering lifetime employment are disappearing, to be replaced by the 'portfolio' job combining self-employment, fixed-term contracts, multiple part-time jobs, and home-based work ( Handy, 1984, 1994). Others believe that the current disruption of well-established structures and labour market processes are a temporary aberration, brought about by repeated recessions and decades of high unemployment, and look forward to a return to the status quo ante as soon as the economy starts to grow again.