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Inequality, labour and the future of work

We have an established team of researchers interested in a wide range of issues relating to skills, labour and the future of work.

The common focus of our research, much of which has been independently ranked as world-leading, is on inequalities in access to education, skills and employment; inequalities in occupational stratification and unequal treatment at work; and inequalities in the global division of labour and the distribution of income and wealth.

Our multidisciplinary approach draws on social scientific foundations, combining sociology, social policy, education, politics, industrial relations, management studies, social psychology and economics.

All our research relates to wider concerns about the past, present and future direction of market capitalism, addressing issues of capital and labour, state and market regulation, moral economy, social justice, and the political economy of neoliberalism.

Using innovative qualitative and quantitative approaches we have produced pioneering ways of measuring and collecting data on skills, job quality, and the changing contours and experiences of work. Alongside extensive studies of employers and trade unions we are exploring issues of unemployment, underemployment and the precarious nature of employment confronting males and females of all ages. We are mapping trends and geographical variations in trade union membership, labour migration, gender and pay, and changes across the occupational structure from comparative studies of low-skilled and low-paid work in Europe, to the globalisation of high skilled employment and its implications for both developed and emerging economies.

Ongoing research is also investigating continuity and change in the workplace, focusing on the experiences of seafarers in the world’s most globalised industry, ill-treatment at work including bullying and harassment, and health and safety in the work environment.

Long-established links with education research colleagues involve path-breaking research that has challenged the conventional wisdom about human capital theory, widening participation, social mobility and the global ‘knowledge’ economy. Our research is redefining the links between education, skills and the labour market in local, national and global contexts. Researchers are examining issues of higher education and graduate employability, together with the role of corporate talent management in shaping occupational careers and its implications for future patterns of social mobility.

Our research on alternative accounts of the future of work is also attracting international attention. Studies include issues of workplace automation; sustainable models of employment following the rise of online platforms such as Uber; how ‘green’ jobs differ from more established occupational roles in terms of skills and job quality; organisational change; and the impact of new technologies on the professions.

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