segmented labour market
segmented labour marketthe structured variations in general levels of pay, career prospects, working conditions, formal skill content and status between jobs within and between primary and secondary labour market sectors (see DUAL LABOUR MARKET). The concept of segmentalism grew out of the realization among labour economists that companies exhibited an internal labour market structure that differentiated between various types of worker (see LABOUR MARKET). Sociological application of the model has led to the extension of the term segmentalism between companies and across industries as well as within companies (Freedman, 1976). Central to any consideration of segmentalism is the twin problematic of skill and control SKILL is as much a socially structured phenomenon as it is a body of knowledge combined with physical dexterity. Moreover, the ability to sustain claims to skilled status is generally associated with relatively high levels of work autonomy and control. Segmentalism, therefore, permits the sociologist to differentiate between groups of workers in terms of their ability to sustain claims for skilled status and occupational autonomy and control. The social structuring of skill and occupational status also means that workers’ expectations are constrained by socio-historical precedence in which white male workers have been viewed as being the only general category (as ‘bread winners’) for whom relatively high wages, skilled status and career prospects have been generally available. By contrast, women and ethnic groups of workers have had need of Equal Opportunity legislation to obtain the right even to be considered for such employment. However, the impact of international competition (GLOBALIZATION) on labour markets has led to a serious undermining of these labour market assumptions. No longer is it the case that large corporations and public sector organisations can be assumed to provide secure employment (Rubery 1996: 27).
Segmentalism permits a finer delineation to be made in the analysis of labour markets than one simply premised upon a dualistic approach, for sociological research purposes it lacks the degree of specificity required for the empirical study of particular labour markets at regional and local levels (see LOCAL LABOUR MARKETS).