The Social Organization of Work
How do societies organize: work? As societies grow larger in population and more complex in their division of labor, different categories of work are identifiedby government bureaucracies. In the United States. this is done by agencies such as the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Census Bureau. These classifications are often somewhat arbitrary and may not refect the actual job descriptions and tasks associated with the work that many people do. For example. sociologists often find that Census Bureau categories such as “executive. administrators. and managerial” or “technical and related support” encompass such a wide range of jobs and differences in compensation that it is difficult to make generalizations from statistical data about workers in these employment categories.
Occupattons are categories of jobs that involve similar adivilics at different work sites (Reskln and Padavic, 2002). Over 500 different occupational categories and
31.000 occupation titles. ranging from motion picture cartoonist to drop-hammer operator. are currently listed by the U.S. Census Bureau. Historically, occupations were classified as blue collar and white collar. Bluecollar workers were primarily factory and craft workers who did manual labor: white-collar workers were office workers and professionals. However. contemporaryworkers in the service sector do not easily fit into either of these categories; neither do the so-called pink-collar workers. primarily women. who are employed in occupations uch as preschool teacher. dental assistant. seeretary, and clerk (Hodson and Sullivan. 2008). Sociologists establish broad occupational categories y distinguishing between employment in the primary labor market and in the secondary labor market. The primary labor market consists of high-paying jobs with good benefits that have some degree of security and the possibility of future advancement. By contrast, the labor market consists of low-paying jobs with few benefits and very little job security or possibility for future advancement (Bonacich, 1972). Some jobs in the secondary labor market are also characterized by hazardous working conditions and unscrupulous employers. Jane H. Lii, 11 Chinese speaking journalist on an undercover . described such problems when she ~y worked in a garment factory ill Brooklyn. ~York: even days later. after 84 hours of work. I got my reward. in the form of a promise that in three weeks 1 would be paid $54.24. or 65 cents an hour [much less than the minimum wage], I also walked 2 Nty rom the lint-filled factory with aching shoulders, a stiff back. a dry cough. and a burning so« throat. (Lii. 1995: little formal education. may be working in violation of child labor laws. and may be recent immigrants who feel powerless to call attention to their plight. By contrast. professionals in the upper tier of the primary labor market are characterized by extensive education or training and some degree of control over their work .