Social Change and the Experience of Unemployment

By Duncan Gallie; Catherine Marsh et al. | Go to book overview

10
Labour Market Deprivation, Welfare, and Collectivism

DUNCAN GALLIE AND CAROLYN VOGLER


1. INTRODUCTION

Changes in labour market conditions over the last ten years have led to renewed speculation about the future of collectivist attitudes. In Britain, the most striking change has been the sharp rise in the level of unemployment. However, many commentators have also suggested that profound changes are occurring in the character of employment, in particular through the rise of more precarious types of work. On one estimate, fully a third of British employees could now be considered part of the 'flexible' work-force ( Hakim 1987). Overall, there has been an increase in the level of insecurity and a marked accentuation of financial inequality.

There have been two broad interpretations of the implications of these changes for people's wider social attitudes. Some have emphasized the way that they have diversified labour market statuses, thereby fragmenting the work-force and undermining the basis for traditional solidaristic attitudes. Those in secure employment, it is argued, have enriched themselves during the 'recession' and have come to perceive a fundamental gulf between their interests and those of the disadvantaged. They have become increasingly conservative in their attitudes and indeed have come to resent the prevailing structure of welfare provision which they see as serving primarily the interests of others. The overall impact of labour market change, then, has been a growing polarization between social groups and a general decline in collectivism ( Offe 1986; Golding and Middleton 1982). For other writers, the sharp increase in labour market deprivation in the 1980s is thought rather to have heightened people's awareness of the essentially

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