Économie et Statistique n° 393-394 - 2006Life Story survey
Unskilled workers: a new social class?
In March 2002, just less than five million people were in unskilled employment: 2,760,000 were white-collar workers and 2,035,000 were blue-collar workers. Far from disappearing with deindustrialisation, unskilled employment has been growing since the mid-1990s: today, one in five jobs is in unskilled employment. The analysis of the survey results confirms the assimilation to workers of a segment of this unskilled employment, which has been revealed up until now by sociological observation. Unskilled blue-collar and white-collar workers constitute a distinct segment of the workforce because of their salaries, terms and conditions of employment and working conditions. However, they do not seem to constitute a social class: weakened by their professional integration, with a destabilised social image, these workers are characterised by a weak sense of belonging to a social class. Class identity, which once played an important structural role in the working classes, has been gradually eroded, leaving the unskilled workers with an attitude of «withdrawal», somewhere between rejection and resignation, with regard to the dominant models of social integration. For workers at the bottom of the ladder, different forms of identity construction contrast certain underpopulations, i.e. young and old, men and women, immigrants and non-immigrants.