In modern societies, occupations are decisive ‘motors’ for the (re-)production of social inequalities. Occupations comprise not only groups of individuals who perform similar activities and have comparable skills and competencies. They also confer social power to their members which is deriving from their occupational positions within the social division of labour. In many welfare states, occupations are an institution connecting the education system and the labour market. Particularly in vocationally organised labour markets, vocational (and academic) certificates not only signal a certain amount of education, but also suggest that job applicants have acquired a certain bundle of general and occupation-specific skills. As a consequence, occupational certificates are necessary prerequisites for finding and keeping stable and regular employment. At the same time, they limit access to specific occupations and associated resources such as prestige and income. Thus, occupations are a decisive mechanism of social stratification by social origin, gender and ethnicity.
However, there are several phenomena which challenge the notion of a universal relationship between occupations and social inequality. From a historical perspective, there is a scientific debate on the declining significance of occupational qualifications for social mobility processes as they have been in the past. From a cross-national perspective, national education and training systems differ in the extent to which they provide more general or more occupation-specific training. As a consequence, labour market placement and mobility processes are structured by a different degree along occupational boundaries and produce different patterns, which might also have implications for social stratification. From a theoretical point of view, it is still controversial which aspects of occupations are most decisive for the (re-) production of social inequalities, i.e. whether skill requirements, tasks performed, social closure or other aspects such as working conditions matter most. From an empirical perspective, scholars have repeatedly criticised the use of standard occupational classifications for measuring effects of occupations on social inequality, especially in the context of historical and cross-country comparisons. Due to these challenges, the international conference aims at bringing together researchers and scholars who work in the field of occupations and social stratification in order to stimulate scientific exchange, networking, and future joint research. The conference participants will present and discuss new theoretical approaches and empirical insights into the structuring role of occupations on social stratification and inequality processes. We particularly invite papers dealing with one of the following questions:
- How important are occupations as social categories for the (re-)production of social inequalities in different welfare state regimes, educational systems, and labor markets?
- Have occupational placement processes changed over time and for various groups in the workforce? Do these changes have consequences for social inequalities over the life course?
- How do different aspects of occupations, such as skill requirements, tasks performed, occupational closure, gender, or the demographic composition of occupations affect unequal labor market outcomes?
- How can we measure the effects of occupations on social stratification processes, especially in historical and cross-national perspectives?
- Prof. Dr. Ingrid Schoon (University of London, UK)
- Prof. Dr. Kim Weeden (Cornell University, US)
- Prof. Dr. Corinna Kleinert (Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories and University of Bamberg)
- Prof. Dr. Dirk Konietzka (University of Technology Braunschweig)
- Prof. Dr. Kathrin Leuze (University of Hannover)
- Dr. Britta Matthes (Institute for Employment Research, Nuremberg)