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ANALYSING SKILL INTRODUCTION Skills are crucial for determining the status and pay of occupations and professions, it is also central to the structure of employment and influences gender divisions in society. It is therefore, important to firstly analyse how we come to define skills before we come next week to analyse skill changes in the contemporary workplace. CONCEPTUALISING SKILL An analysis of skill remains one of the most contentious areas of debate in the social sciences. The study of skill integrates an examination of:- 1) the person 2) the job 3) the setting Cynthia Cockburn's (1983) study of print workers distinguishes between the person, the job and the setting. 1) SKILL IN THE PERSON Refers to the individual and therefore involves a number of different attributes including, dexterity and knowledge. This definition views skill as being accumulated over time through education, qualifications, training and experience. This approach is pursued mainly by economists and is typified in the human capital approach. In this definition, it is the individual who is responsible for increasing their human capital and therefore their own job opportunities Criticisms 1) Inequalities - There is an inherent assumption in this theory that everyone has the equal ability to increase their human capital 2) Changing context of work - The skill in the person may remain but it is the economic and technical context which determines the value of the skill. ...read more.


Workers therefore 'talk up' the skilled nature of their work. * 'weak' stresses that most jobs have significant skills but this is only recognised as such by the ability of workers to define them as such. So the technical skills are merely a starting point but does not guarantee the occupation a skilled status because the occupational group must enact social closure. Although thus far we have concentrated on occupational groups, it is the example of gender which illustrates most vividly the way skills are socially constructed. Further, this raises important issues concerning equality. GENDER AND SKILL Social closure also refers to the way men as a social group have mobilised their interests over women in the labour market, so that what we define as skills have been constructed to benefit men and disadvantage men. There is now a range of evidence which substantiates this claim, especially the work of dual systems theorists and those academics who view gendering as significant for understanding social processes such as skill construction. Phillips and Taylor (1986) stress that, 'it is the qualities of the worker rather than the skill content of the work that is important in deeming women's work as unskilled; 'women workers carry into the workplace their status of subordinate individuals and this status comes to define the value of the work they do' (1986: 55). ...read more.


Example - Collinson and Knights's (1986) research into the insurance industry indicated the importance of examining management perceptions in the creation and reproduction of sex-typed work. As well as reinforcing the sexual division of labour through their employment practices, management are also involved in under-valuing women's work - Why? * Financial Incentive * Social Values * Customer Expectations * Social relations Research into Royal Mail (Jenkins et al 2002) illustrated the way management and unions have acted together to sustain a sex-typed workplace. However, changes in the organisation have challenged these practices and there is a tension between workers and managers - men have lost their political and material resources to sustain the workplace as a male domain. In these cases, ideological resources were used to demarcate the territory as male. CONCLUSION It is apparent that there are many ways in which we can analyse skill. It is argued here that as well as the person and the job we need to take into account the ways in which skills are socially constructed - taking account of political, ideological and material processes by which some groups have enacted social closure. It is important to recognise the diversity in analysing skills because of the crucial important skill has in defining the status of the job and in role definitions of skill has in perpetuating the sexual division of labour. ...read more.

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