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Justice for all? The pattern of skills in Britain

By Alan Felstead, David Ashton and Francis Green


This paper was published as Working Paper 23 by the Centre for Labour Market Studies, University of Leicester. it is also available from is frequently alleged that there is a tendency towards polarisation of\ud skills in Britain. This tendency is considered to contribute to the process\ud of social exclusion, about which there is much academic and – since the\ud election of the Labour government – political concern. Previous survey\ud evidence for the 1980s seemed to confirm this position. This paper\ud investigates whether the process has continued into the 1990s among those\ud in work. Our main finding is that there has been no over-riding process of\ud polarisation between 1992 and 1997. On average, individuals who has\ud utilised below average levels of skills in the jobs they held in 1992\ud experienced above average increments to those skills in the subsequent\ud five years. This finding is hardly suggestive of polarisation within the\ud employed workforce. However, the research also shows that the picture\ud is complex in that certain fissures can be identified. Amongst those\ud remaining in employment, those more likely to lose out on improving their\ud skills were those who: switched from full-time to part-time work; were\ud self-employed; remained in personal and protective service or sales\ud occupations; were downwardly mobile; remained in the communityrelated\ud industrial sector; and were among the lowest paid in society. In\ud addition, those workers employed in what we term for simplicity\ud ‘traditional’ organisations – ones which were least likely to communicate\ud well with their employees, had appraisal systems in place, were an\ud Investor in People and used Quality Circles – were in jobs which\ud demanded low skill levels, attracted low rates of pay and experienced slow\ud rates of upskilling

Publisher: Centre for Labour Market Studies, University of Leicester
Year: 1999
OAI identifier:

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