International Working Party of Labour Market Segmentation 2017

IWPLMS 2017 Manchester

‘Inclusive and exclusive labour markets in times of inequality and uncertainty’

13-15 September 2017, University of Manchester
Abstract deadline: 31st March 2017

Abstract submission: Please submit an abstract of 300 words (max) via email to

The growing tide of regressive and reactionary politics on the world stage has emerged in the wake of research evidence that has identified a seemingly new architecture for capitalist development characterised by widening inequality, middle income stagnation, economic uncertainty, poverty among working households, precarious work and corporate strategies of wealth extraction. Macroeconomic policy in many countries still suffers from the strange post-crisis lurch towards balancing budgets and shrinking the realm of state activities, while corporate governance models continue their shift towards meeting shareholder needs at the expense of other valid stakeholder interests. While a range of statutory and collectively negotiated employment and social rights remain in place for the most part, and have even been strengthened in some countries, there are new signs that employers are able and willing to evade the rules whether under pressures of cost competition or value extraction, or operating outside the formal sectors, generating growth in many forms of precarious work, reversing equalities and undermining the basis for a sustainable society founded on decent work.

The 2017 IWPLMS conference will focus on the wider developmental forces at play around the world and calls for new theoretical and empirical research that can both contribute to a new labour market segmentation approach for analysing inequalities and assist in policy efforts to make work more equal. This overall aim is inspired by the work of Jill Rubery, who co-founded the IWPLMS, and to whom this conference is dedicated in order to mark a special celebration of her career to date. Mirroring Jill’s intellectual contributions, this conference aims to interrogate through state-of-the-art research the various fiscal, technological, labour market and social policy changes around the world that are creating or increasing inequalities, precarious work and social exclusion among different workforce groups. Research increasingly spans multiple disciplines in an effort to understand both the wide-ranging set of institutions that shape employment inequalities (especially social and welfare policy rules, education policy and corporate governance systems), the interaction with complex political and social processes of gender relations systems, and the global character of technologically interlinked production systems and their related employment forms. Moreover, while employers play a key role in constructing and sustaining inequalities (whether by lobbying for deregulatory reforms, unbundling production structures in ways that fragment work or evading rules designed to shore up equalities at work), unions and civil society organisations may under certain circumstances exercise countervailing power. As such, as Jill’s comparative employment research has demonstrated, the character and consequences of labour market segmentation are likely to vary across different country, sectoral and organisational systems.

The 2017 conference will begin with a one-day event (13th September) to discuss and debate new contributions in specific fields of work where Jill has been a strong voice over the years. The day will consist of a series of invited talks, panel roundtables and Q&As with Jill Rubery, with details to be announced soon. The second and third days (14th and 15th September) will consist of papers and keynotes organised by specific research themes, selected to reflect the conference’s dual ambition both to forge a new intellectual basis for a new labour market segmentation approach to analysing and addressing work and employment inequalities and to celebrate Jill Rubery’s career to date. We would like to invite colleagues to submit an abstract of their paper to one of the five general themes listed below. All themes are designed to be international in intellectual and empirical focus. Note that gender issues are included in all five themes. Mixed research methods and cross-country comparative analyses are especially welcome.

  1. Employers as architects of inequalities
    Construction of primary and secondary labour markets; Job design; Undervaluation of women’s jobs; Career patterns (e.g. for mothers and fathers over the life course, obstacles to youth gaining regular employment); Sex segregation by industry/occupation; Anti-union strategies; Employer discrimination (e.g. by age, gender, ethnicity, disability); Prospects for reconciling employers’ flexibility strategies with work-life balance needs of employees.
  2. Households, welfare regimes and their inequalities effects
    Social protection rights; Welfare protection over the life cycle; Adapting family support models to new household configurations and changing gender relations; Precarious work and welfare rights/ welfare sanctions.
  3. Business transformation and labour market segmentation
    Subcontracting, deverticalisation and fragmented work; The ‘gig economy’, freelancing and precarious work; Investment strategies, private equity, financialisation and sharing the gains; Technology and the changing sexual division of labour.
  4. Global value chains and decent work
    Pan-national labour standards; Exploitation of migrant workforce; International framework agreements; Supply chains and gender quality; Corporate codes of conduct; GVCs and diffusion of standards.
  5. Inclusive labour markets against dualism and precarity
    Trends and consequences of protective and participative standards (e.g. minimum wages, worker voice, collective bargaining); Union actions against precarious work; Interaction of welfare and employment regulations; Gender equality as a route to inclusive labour markets for all.

For more information, visit our website where further details are added daily:

IWPLMS conference team: Damian Grimshaw, Mat Johnson, Kate Lagan, Anthony Rafferty & Isabel Tavora

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