Work Employment & the Labour Market

| April 22, 2014

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Essay question
Critically discuss the meaning of ?work? in the 21st Century as a modern social construction.
In your essay response please focus on:
* The historical perspective on how the meaning of work has changed;
* The influence of technology and the importance of skill; and
* The impact of globalisation, new forms of work and the knowledge economy.
Below are some suggestions you might care to consider when contemplating the 200243 essay.
1. Define your terms. What do you mean when you use the expressions ?work? and ?social construction?? This helps the reader appreciate the confines of your discussion, and avoids the possibility of the marker commenting ? … you should have looked at XXX for more depth to the discussion … ?, because you have stated the limits of the discussion.
2. The many characteristics of ?work?. Who performs the work (male/female, adult/child etc)? When is the work performed (time of the day, days of the week etc)? Where is the work performed (is the work restricted to a specific location ? i.e. a ?workplace? ? or can it be performed in numerous locations such as the worker?s home, and is this due to the use of technology or because the nature of the work activities)? How is the work performed (are the work tasks manual or non-manual; is physical or intellectual effort involved; is there a reliance on technology)? Why is the work performed (in exchange for a financial reward, because the work itself has value, or because the outcome has a community benefit ? such as volunteering)?
3. Regulation of the work. Is a specific educational qualification or time period of experience required to work in a particular occupation or profession (as this sends signals about the social status of the work), and has this changed over time?
4. Skill As the notion ?skill? is also a social construction, has the complexity or range of skills required for a job changed? Does the job require the exercise of ?soft? skills? Does the job required the exercise of ?hard? (i.e. technical) skills? Does the job rely on general (i.e. transferable) skills, or firm/organisational-specific skills?
5. Use examples. One of the best ways to develop a balanced discussion is to cite specific examples to support your propositions. In the context of ?work?, these examples could be a particular industry (e.g. the clothing, textiles and garment industry), an occupation (e.g. sales assistant or typist), a profession (e.g. nursing, early childhood education or accountancy), or even a country (e.g. Australia). Here, use of different types of examples can be used to show diversity, or continuity, or changes in the meaning of ?work?.
6. Argument. As essays are an argumentative piece of writing, your discussion should contain a clearly identifiable argument. This argument must be directly relevant to the essay topic. Do not confuse information with an argument; information ? such as an example ? helps support an argument but is not an argument in itself. Your argument should be shaped by the ?evidence? you have complied. Here, your evidence is the actual examples you have discussed. This is far easier (and preferable) than having a predetermined argument and then seeking evidence/examples to support it. Consequently, there is no ?right? or ?wrong? argument for this essay topic, as each student is likely to have a different approach or discussion because they focus on different aspects of the concept and/or practice of ?work?, and use different examples in the discussion. Therefore, it would be wise to acknowledge the limitations of your discussion (i.e. alternative arguments are possible if different examples are cited, or different time period or counties are used).
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