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Occupational Stability in a Changing Economy
Unformatted Document Text:  research to date has focused on trends in employment stability and employer tenure. These studies have found moderate changes in long-term tenure but little evidence of increased “churning,” or short-term turnover. These results have led some researchers to conclude that the anxiety about the New Economy is unjustified. There has been less research, however, on whether the role of occupations has changed. The literature provides conflicting predictions for the fate of occupations in the New Economy. Tolbert (1996) predicts that the declining role of organizations in careers will lead to a more centralized role for occupations. She believes that the widespread use of contracting and contingent employment will require increasing codification of occupations so that workers can be hired from the external labor market with a commonly-understood set of skills. An individual’s career, therefore, would increasingly be defined by his or her skills and occupational position. Grusky, Sørensen, and Weeden also theorize that classes are best defined by detailed occupational categories rather than broad classes, which implies that detailed occupations are a central and relatively consistent individual characteristic even in today’s economy (Grusky and Sørensen 2001; Grusky and Weeden 2001; Weeden and Grusky 2005). These theories, therefore, predict that occupational patterns have become more stable as individuals rely on a specific set of skills and occupational identity rather than an employer to define their careers. On the other hand, rapid technological changes, rising competitive pressures, and the increased changing of employers in the modern labor market has led other researchers to emphasize the need for flexibility rather than the development of specific occupational skills. Iellatchitch, Mayerhofer, and Meyer (2003) state that: Professional careers have become more diverse and will become increasingly so in the future…the ‘traditional’ model of ‘one career’,

Authors: Hollister, Matissa.
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research to date has focused on trends in employment stability and employer tenure.
These studies have found moderate changes in long-term tenure but little evidence of
increased “churning,” or short-term turnover. These results have led some researchers to
conclude that the anxiety about the New Economy is unjustified.
There has been less research, however, on whether the role of occupations has
changed. The literature provides conflicting predictions for the fate of occupations in the
New Economy. Tolbert (1996) predicts that the declining role of organizations in careers
will lead to a more centralized role for occupations. She believes that the widespread use
of contracting and contingent employment will require increasing codification of
occupations so that workers can be hired from the external labor market with a
commonly-understood set of skills. An individual’s career, therefore, would increasingly
be defined by his or her skills and occupational position. Grusky, Sørensen, and Weeden
also theorize that classes are best defined by detailed occupational categories rather than
broad classes, which implies that detailed occupations are a central and relatively
consistent individual characteristic even in today’s economy (Grusky and Sørensen 2001;
Grusky and Weeden 2001; Weeden and Grusky 2005). These theories, therefore, predict
that occupational patterns have become more stable as individuals rely on a specific set of
skills and occupational identity rather than an employer to define their careers.
On the other hand, rapid technological changes, rising competitive pressures, and
the increased changing of employers in the modern labor market has led other researchers
to emphasize the need for flexibility rather than the development of specific occupational
skills. Iellatchitch, Mayerhofer, and Meyer (2003) state that:
Professional careers have become more diverse and will become
increasingly so in the future…the ‘traditional’ model of ‘one career’,


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