Occupational licensure creates a right to practice, legislatively carving out tasks that can only be performed by authorized practitioners and reserving an occupational title for the sole use of those practitioners. The authority to practice can be obtained only from the state, and unauthorized practice can result in criminal and civil penalties.
Over the past few decades, occupational closure – most often through occupational licensing – quietly became the norm for a broad swath of American occupations. Where only a small set of ‘traditional’ professions once determined entry through regulation, today the practice governs a much wider range of occupations, from doctors to engineers, carpet layers to massage therapists, agricultural inspectors to wilderness guides, and fortune tellers to legal document assistants.
The most substantial growth in occupational licensing has been in blue-collar occupations.
Many occupational licensing boards are made up of senior professionals in that field. Thus, architects draft guidelines for other architects; standards for hairdressers are styled by instructors in cosmetology schools; and frog farmers must leap over barriers imposed by fellow amphibious agriculturalists.
Because not every worker who wants a license can obtain one, licensure is thought to raise wages for licensed workers by artificially restricting supply. If true, this would mean that licensed workers benefit at the expense of consumers.
Profound changes in paid employment have unfolded in recent decades, with serious consequences for millions of workers whose jobs, careers, and family lives have are been exposed to rising levels of risk. Though much of the attention has focused on the advanced capitalist societies, precarious work has also grown through Asia and much of the global south.
Involved here is the spread of work that is uncertain or insecure, in which risks are shifted from employers and governments to workers, and in which workers lack the legal protections and benefits that the standard work arrangement once offered.
Familiar examples of precarious work include temporary and contract work, but growing rapidly now are jobs in the “gig” or on-demand economy, “bogus” self employment in which workers are independent in name only. Working under these conditions can over time have adversely affect individuals, shaping workers’ trajectories in ways that can inflict lasting harm.
Workers often suffer income insecurity. They cannot know when they will be working, if at all. They have little or no access to job training or sick days. And they often feel like outsiders while on the job. Societal effects can also accumulate, as when the weakening of economic attachments drives the social and political instability that has surfaced in recent years, at times seeming to threaten the foundations of liberal democracy itself.
What is known about these developments? One set of answers can be found in Precarious Work, our just-published collection of original papers on the topic.
Happy Friday, sociologists! It is finals week here at WIP and so, like a student stumbling in with fifteen minutes left in the exam, our #FridayRoundup is a bit belated today. We hope you have a great weekend!
In the recent news several instances of sexual harassment and sexual abuse have been brought to light. These cases of sexual abuse highlight how powerful men, such as Harvey Weinstein,Kevin Spacey, and Matt Lauer can use their positions to exploit, harass, and cause harm to others.
There has been less focus on how these individuals were made powerful and protected by institutions that both enabled them to harass and gave them the tools through which they could cause harm. In my research, I explore the intersection between bureaucracy and harassment in the context of the United States military.
Earlier this year “Marines United” was identified as a closed Facebook group where over 30,000 servicemen shared nude photos of servicewomen. Many of the comments following the identification of “Marines United” asked whether the military had policies and regulations as well as avenues to prosecute servicemembers for online activities. We often understand policies, rules, and regulations as ways to prevent, address, and punish those who might perpetrate sexual harassment and abuse.
However, my research shows that it is also important to recognize the discretionary power that individuals have in interpreting, carrying out, and implementing organizational rules, policies, and regulations. The interplay between organizational polices, workplace climate, and individuals in power can lead to sexual abuse in the workplace.
In a recently published article, I use the term “bureaucratic harassment” to explain workplace harassment where bureaucracy is both the tool that perpetrators use to harass, as well as their source of power over others in the organization.
Today we’re adding a new element to our Friday news roundups – “The Lede”. We’ll use this space to feature reporting along with social science research on a topic that has been in the news. We hope you find it interesting!
How is socio-economic advantage and disadvantage passed down from parent to child? This is a central question for sociologists and policymakers alike. No one denies the vital role that education plays in this process. However, sociologists have long argued that there is a persistent ‘direct effect of social origins’ on occupational attainment which cannot be accounted for by education. This residual direct effect of social origins on occupational destinations has acquired the status of a stylized fact within sociology, sometimes simply referred to as ‘DESO’.
Our recent study challenges the consensus on this issue. We ask, could the direct effect of social origins be an artefact of using overly crude measures of education?
If you want to get a top social class position, it certainly helps to be a university graduate. But simply having a degree may not be enough. It may also matter what subject your degree is in, and whether you attended a prestigious university. Yet most studies of social mobility have not accounted for these educational distinctions, which are likely to matter for access to top jobs nowadays.
We set out to provide a refined account of the educational pathways from origins to destinations, using data from a nationally representative sample of over 17,000 people born in Britain in 1970, using the 1970 British Cohort Study. The BCS70 is longitudinal, meaning that the same group of people have been followed up over time. The BCS70 study members have been followed from birth, when their parents were interviewed, to mid-life. The study is ongoing, and the cohort members are interviewed every few years.
Work in Progress is a project of the American Sociological Association's Sections on Organizations, Occupations, and Work, Economic Sociology, Labor and Labor Movements, and Inequality, Poverty, and Mobility