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Factors affecting job tenure in the Australian retail industry




Runciman, Claire Diana

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All sociological traditions recognise the importance of the labour market in the shaping of advantage and disadvanatge in society. However, sociological research has often centred on describing how factors internal to the workplace, such as the labour process, contribute to patterns of disadvantage. One aspect of the labour market operations which has received scant attention in the sociological literature is the different types of tenure attached to different jobs. This thesis considers factors which affect job tenure. The broad context in which patterns of job tenure are created is discussed. The study then narrows its focus to discuss one industry in one place: the retail industry in Australia. Data collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics are used to present a broad picture of trends in the labour market in the 1980s with respect to job tenure. Data from the Affirmative Action Agency are used to describe patterns of job tenure within the retail industry which are associated with particular firm characteristics. Interviews with retail managers and employees are used to identify some of the social and cultural factors which have affected patterns of job tenure in the retail industry. Finally, two government initiatives are discussed with respect to their likely impact on job tenure in the industry. Changes to the major retail awards are documented and their likely impact on job tenure in the industry are discussed. Government records and interviews with store level managers are used to build a picture of the likely affects of some government sponsored training programs on job tenure in the industry. It is concluded that a convergence to a single pattern of job tenure, as predicted by writers such as Atkinson (1986) and Michon (1987)jis unlikely. Social and cultural factors are found to affect patterns of job tenure in the retail industry to a greater extent than the labour market literature would suggest.






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