Occupational change and social polarisation in Ireland:
Irish Journal of Sociology, 16 (1).
This paper extends to the year 2002 that section of an earlier
paper (Breathnach 2002b) which considered whether the pattern of occupational
change occurring in Ireland during the period 1991-1996 indicated the
operation of processes of social polarisation. The occupational categories
contained in the Census of Population were recast in order to create a set of
broad groups which facilitated analysis from a social polarisation perspective.
This analysis demonstrated strong growth, on the one hand, in the numbers
of employers & managers and professional & technical workers and, on the
other, in certain unskilled occupational groups (personal services and retail
sales) – the latter following the allocation to these groups of the bulk of the
greatly-expanded number of workers who failed to state their occupation in
the 2002 census. Meanwhile, key middle-income groups, including bluecollar
industrial, clerical and public service workers experienced contraction
in their overall share of employment. These findings provide considerable
support for the social polarisation hypothesis, albeit in the context of overall
professionalisation of the occupational structure. Female workers have been
to the fore in driving these processes of change, in that there has been aboveaverage
growth of female employment in those occupational categories at
both ends of the occupational spectrum.
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