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Whose skill is it anyway? 'Soft' skills and polarization

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Steve VincentORCiD


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The skills that employers require are changing, with soft skills replacing technical ones. This article draws on two detailed case studies of outsourced public sector work, where these changes were particularly marked. Here, the new skills polarized the workforces. Highly skilled IT professionals were advantaged as soft skills gave them an additional dimension to their work, while benefit caseworkers with intermediate skills were disadvantaged since soft skills were presented as an alternative to technical competences. Women caseworkers suffered a double penalty, as not only were their technical skills devalued but many were confined to traditionally ‘feminine’ and unskilled work at the reception desk. Soft skills certainly aided the acknowledgement of women’s skills but they did nothing to increase their value.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Grugulis I, Vincent S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Work, Employment and Society

Year: 2009

Volume: 23

Issue: 4

Pages: 597-615

ISSN (print): 0950-0170

ISSN (electronic): 1469-8722

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.


DOI: 10.1177/0950017009344862


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