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Class position of major importance in an individualised working life

It is said that contemporary working life is less collectivistic than the one of yesterday, and that the individual has greater potential to influence work and pay conditions. But it is not that simple.

Some parts of working life have been individualised and some have not, while the degree of individualisation varies between different groups of employees, to a high degree dependent on their class position, says Mattias Bengtsson at the Department of Sociology.

Individualisation means that traditional communities such as class and family lose their importance while the individual is urged to make decisions and plan his or her life. This could mean that employees do not need the union in negotiations with the employer, that a "privatised" pay culture is common, that the wage is performance-based and that the employee has a great influence over how, when or where work is performed.

The thesis does not support opinions that individualisation has equal effects among the employees.

Factors such as sex and age, the size of workplace, whether the employment is public or private, and not least class position are related to individualised conditions and individualistic attitudes, says Mattias Bengtsson.

The conditions and attitudes of people

The results of the thesis speak both for and against an individualisation of working life. For example, two out of three employees agree that the union is necessary for successful negotiation with their employer, while nearly half the population agree that they prefer to take care of negotiations individually.

As opposed to the opinion that class has lost its explanatory power, the class position clearly influences the conditions and attitudes of people.

Compared to employees in a working class position, employees in the service class clearly has a higher influence over work and pay, they are more loyal towards the employer, more inclined to be non-unionised, more positive to unilateral negotiations with the employer and speaks to a lower degree about wages, says Mattias Bengtsson.

The material partly consists of previous research, partly of a postal survey from 2003, which was part of a research project under the guidance of Professor Bengt Furåker.

The survey was answered by 3286 employees, with a response rate of 72 percent.

The author of the thesis: Mattias Bengtsson,
phone +46(0)31-786 4820 (work)
The opponenent: Professor Jan Ch Karlsson, Karlstad

Eva Lundgren | idw
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