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Social Polis Social Platform on Cities and Social Cohesion www.socialpolis.eu Working group for EF2: Urban labour markets and economic development.

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Presentation on theme: "Social Polis Social Platform on Cities and Social Cohesion www.socialpolis.eu Working group for EF2: Urban labour markets and economic development."— Presentation transcript:

1 Social Polis Social Platform on Cities and Social Cohesion Working group for EF2: Urban labour markets and economic development

2 Urban labour markets and economic development Can current labour market trends be usefully explored using the concept of social polarisation? Frequently-used concept, central to many of the most influential sociological theories (Sassen, Bauman, Burawoy, Pahl, Harvey; Regulation Theory, Post-industrial Society etc.) Strongly linked to social cohesion, as social polarisation threatens to exacerbate and render class divisions more visible, reduce social mobility, marginalise the weakest groups Strongly but not exclusively linked to labour market processes

3 Urban labour markets and economic development Social polarisation  Not a unitary phenomenon but a range of inter-connected “mechanisms”  Structures and processes rather than outcomes  Theory-guided comparative empirical research – different factors in different locations at different points in time  Attention on the Eastern and Southern peripheries of Europe  Domains: wages, conditions, occupational structure, opportunities  Polarisation within work vs. exclusion from the labour force

4 Urban labour markets and economic development Economic development (1) Advanced cities – global financial flows and producer services, research, elite education systems, “professionalisation”, developed welfare, high market value of scarce skills; but informal economy and poor jobs Peripheral cities – limited growth of advanced services, weak professional expansion driven by state employment, decline of traditional middle classes, structural unemployment, underemployment and a mass of informalised, seasonal and low-paid jobs -> different forms of polarisation (“global city” vs. “Neapolitan”) -> timing of economic transitions (late industrialisation, partial development of welfare, uneven development of advanced services)

5 Urban labour markets and economic development Economic development (2) Evidence of polarisation from Eastern and Southern Europe, Latin America, South Africa and countries that have experienced severe economic crises (Tokyo, Mexico City, Buenos Aires) – link with peripheral European cities Shift from “peripheral Fordism” (protectionism, developmental state, populism/clientelism) to “peripheral neoliberalism” (but global economic processes are insufficient to integrate those “left behind”) Risk of urban concentration of poverty, informalisation, demodernisation in certain urban areas of Europe (Szalai, 2005)

6 Urban labour markets and economic development Economic restructuring (1) Strong continuity in theoretical accounts since the 1970s – “dualistic polarisation of the workforce” due to changing division of labour, technology etc. Linked with debates about “post-industrial society”, labour market segmentation, flexible specialisation, competitive austerity from 1970s Key notions: decline of industrial employment, insider/outsider labour market, polarisation in service sector employment, skill destruction and reconstruction

7 Urban labour markets and economic development Economic restructuring (2) Optimistic interpretation – originates with Daniel Bell (1974) – expansion of professional and managerial strata, appreciation of market value of skills, decline in inequality, opportunities for mobility, positive impact of new technology Pessimistic view – Crompton and Jones (1984), Braverman (1974), Michon (1981) – “declining middle”, downward pressure on wages, proletarianised mass of low-paid and low-skilled workers Service sector “proletariat” (Esping-Andersen, 1990), excluded “underclass” (Auletta, 1982) or continuity in class structure? Attempts to integrate both views (Regulation School) → polarisation?

8 Urban labour markets and economic development Employment conditions Uneven trends towards expansion of casual work, outsourcing, small firms, segmentation, informal jobs with differential effects Disembedding of skills and credentials from state regulation and collective agreements – undermining union capacity to defend conditions Reduction of social mobility and strengthening of social closure due to credentialisation – inequalities, segregation, less universalistic welfare Powerful effects on young people, immigrants, women – with a growing systemic impact – not stepping stones but a growing cleavage → Importance of studying the impact of economic recession

9 Urban labour markets and economic development Deregulation/re-regulation Competitive austerity (Albo, 1996) – export-oriented production, flexible labour markets, declining real wages, weakening of protective legislation, trade liberalisation, outsourcing, neoliberal education and labour market policies → Formation of a growing periphery of casualised and informal workers → Degradation of employment – threat of delocalisation, heightened economic competition, exploitation of cheap (often migrant) labour, organisational changes, state policy, obstacles to unionisation, dismantling of collective bargaining machinery But note differences between European and American employment systems

10 Urban labour markets and economic development Immigrants and the labour market Increasing flows – supply and demand factors, transport costs etc. Consolidation of dualistic policies that relegate low-skilled migrants to secondary labour markets and the informal economy (asymmetrical integration) Vulnerability during periods of economic downturn – “bumping down” Segmentation – informalisation and poor jobs become structural features, even in the context of relatively “tight” labour markets → Interaction between deregulated/informal labour markets and dualistic immigration policies, in the context of restructuring and economic crisis (segmentation, segregation, pressure on wages, criminalisation)

11 Urban labour markets and economic development Economic “marginality” and social polarisation Formation of a large, non-integrated and irrelevant mass of population – “human detritus wrought by economic deregulation and welfare retrenchment” (Wacquant, 2008) Areas of concentrated, long-term unemployment, which previously hosted large numbers of unskilled industrial workers and often immigrants, have generated most intense forms of urban conflict (riots in UK and France) Informal work – due to competitive pressures, growth of personal services, outsourcing, resistance to employment upgrading, uneven development

12 Urban labour markets and economic development Conclusions  Different configurations of mechanisms in different locations  Urban hierarchy, “escalator cities”, role of skills, stretching upwards  Stretching and bumping downwards  “Modern” and “traditional” forms of casual and flexible employment  Substantial continuities in theories as well as overall class structure  Poverty that is more urban, more concentrated, more deeply-rooted  Unequal structuring of access to employment and good jobs – gender, race, legal status, credentials – who pays the highest costs?  Importance of state in attenuating negative consequences of both unemployment and insecure employment  Interaction between deregulated/informal labour markets and dualistic immigration policies


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