Employee Relations

1. Introduction
2. The current women’s position in the labour market
3. Basic causes of differences in the position of men and women in the labour market and employee relations
a. Skills deficit
b. Occupational segregation
c. Discrimination
d. Interruptions in employment to care for family members
e. Part-time employment
4. Conclusion
5. Bibliography

In the contemporary economy, employee relations are growing to be more complicated and it is extremely important to carefully analyze the recent trends in the labor market in order to fully realize and objectively assess the current situation in this market. In fact, nowadays the labour and traditional views on this process start to change, not in the last turn due to the increasing role of knowledge and information.
In this respect, it is particularly important to thoroughly analyze the position of women in the labor market and the extent to which their role has changed in the modern economy and employee relations. It is not a secret that traditionally women were in a deprived position compared to men and this is it is necessary to find out whether this problem is still relevant as well as to attempt to trace the basic causes of the existing difference between men and women in the labour market.
In such a way, it will be possibly to eventually define the basic components that constitute the gap between men and women employees in the modern economy.
The current women’s position in the labour market
Speaking about the current situation in the labour market, it should be pointed out that it has really changed compared to the situation that could be observed a few decades ago. First of all, the labour market demands and its structure are changing and what is more the gender difference has a trend to gradually decrease that, though, does not necessarily mean that they have already disappeared. In fact, nowadays the growth of new industries stimulated by the rapid development of new technologies, especially in the sphere of IT, creates the situation when the labour market demand on physical semi-qualified or non-qualified labour force gradually decreases.
As a result, the role of information and knowledge is growing and in the future this trend may become dominant. Naturally, in such a situation, some economic theories concerning labour need to be improved or precised. In this respect, it is worthy of note the human capital theory which traditionally defines human capital as “a way of defining and categorizing peoples’ skills and abilities as used in employment and as they otherwise contribute to the economy” (Walby and Olsen 102).
Briefly speaking, it is possible to say that, according to this theory, labour is one of the highest value the employees possess and, to a certain extent, labour is a cornerstone of employee relations. This is why it is very important for an employee to be competitive in the labour market that can be archived only through the high level of his/her skills and abilities he/she can offer to the market, or literally to employees.
In fact, it is hardly possible to underestimate the role of human capital in employees relations since human capital is a stock of assets one owns, which allows one to receive a flow of income, which is like interests earned. On the other hand, it is necessary to emphasize that human capital is substitutable though it does not mean that it will replace land, labour or capital totally, but “it can be substituted for them to various degrees and be included as a separate variable in a production function” (Allen 233).
In such a way, nowadays, actually as always, the relations of employees are defined by their skills and abilities which actually form human capital. On the other hand, there is another component of human capital that substantially differs modern employees relations from those of the past and this component is knowledge. Objectively speaking, knowledge can hardly be referred to human capital as a kind of standard skills or abilities of an employee. Knowledge is really unique and it is substantially different from the physical labour that used to dominate in the past and, to a significant extent, contributed to the domination of men in the labour market, while knowledge creates opportunities for women to gain better position in the labour market and really benefit from employee relations. actually, knowledge reveal certain limitations of the human capital theory exactly because of the uniqueness of knowledge which cannot be really standardized and classified by this theory.
Basically, the uniqueness of knowledge and its difference from the physical labour may be explained by several factors which can potentially put men and women in more equal positions in employee relations and labour market.
Firstly, knowledge is expandable and self-generating. Practically it means that as doctors get more experience their knowledge base will increase, as well as their endowment of human capital (Kelvin 134). It is also important to emphasize that nowadays “the economics of scarcity is replaced by the economics of self-generation” (Kelvin 137) not in the last turn due to knowledge which is self-generating, i.e., to put it in simple words, knowledge can produce knew knowledge. Secondly, knowledge is transportable and shareable and, consequently, knowledge can be easily moved and shared. Even though knowledge’s transfer does not prevent its use by the original holder, “the transfer of knowledge may reduce its scarcity-value to its original possessor” (Allen 304).
Thus, at first glance, according to the theory of human capital, knowledge, becoming one of the defining factors in the modern labour market, should provide equal opportunities for both men and women to benefit from their human capital and establish equal employee relations. In fact, this exactly what the harkim theory implies. To put it more precisely, according to this theory the balance is essential in employee relations since it will contribute to the improvement of the position of employees through equal pay for the same labour, for instance, and, consequently, it will lead to higher productivity and efficiency of work. However, the reality is quite different from this ideal assumption and actually reveals certain to idealism in the harkim theory that undermines, to a certain extent, its plausibility and reliability.
Basically, the current situation in the labour market and employee relations is still characterized by a substantial gap between men and women that may be clearly observed in the pay and productivity gap (see Table 1). In this respect, it should be pointed out that, according to the recent research (Walby and Olsen) in the UK, statistical data analysis found that the pay and productivity gap practically in all issues discussed was in favour of men that reveals the fact that the position of women is worse than that of men. To put it more precisely, the gender gap has been used as the most appropriate proxy available for the productivity gap per hour. The gap between women’s and men’s education is associated with 6% of the gap. Occupational segregation is associated with 13% of the gap, including comparing a situation of no occupational segregation with the current level of segregation. However, what is the most remarkable is just being female associated with 29% of the gap.
Furthermore, the difference in the length of women’s full-time work experience (10,9 years), and that of men (18,2years), is associated with 26% of the gap. The greater interruptions to the employment due to the family care by women as compared with men were associated with 15% of the gap. The extent to which women are more likely than men to work part-time, 4,4 years, rather than 0,3 years, is associated with 12% of the gap.
Basic causes of differences in the position of men and women in the labour market and employee relations
Obviously, the substantial gap in the position of men and women must have some causes which actually engender the inequality of employee relations between men and women and it is very important to find out these causes and thoroughly analyze them. Otherwise, it will be practically impossible to trace the trends that will define the future development of the labour market and employee relations, neither it will be possible to find possible solutions to minimize or even totally eliminate this gap.
Skills deficit
Specialists (Allen) emphasize that one of the major reasons for the significant gap between men and women in the labour market, which affects their level of payment and productivity, is the skills deficit. However, this problem is not as simple as it might seem to be at first glance because it is not just a lack of certain skill which women do not possess but it is the problem of the systematic deprivation of women of a possibility to acquire essential skills and develop respective abilities to be really competitive compared with men.
First of all, it is necessary to underline that the root of this problem is not in the employees or employers but rather in the system of education at large, traditional cultural values and stereotypes, socially dogmatized behaviour, and others. Practically, it means that one of the major problems that results in the lack of skills of women employees is poor education of women, though it does not mean that they receive no education or their education is poor at large scale but still they have less opportunities than men, especially when they choose the future profession. For instance, women on average “have fewer educational qualifications than men” (Walby and Olsen 155).
As a result, women cannot simply enter traditionally male qualifications because of the lack of education. However, it should be said that nowadays young women have eliminated this problem but they cannot fully closed this gap because there are women at an average age. Not surprisingly that at the present moment the average women is less qualified than an average man.
Some researches (Allen) revealed the fact that in order to raise the average employed woman to the educational level of the average man, she would need the equivalent of 0,3 years of education. However, it is necessary to underline that this problem does not affect all women. In fact, the gender gap in educational qualifications is concentrated among those women who are over 40, and those who are employed part-time or not at all, while for younger women the gap is getting closer as it has been just mentioned above. As a result, the significant part of the skills deficit is caused by this gendered qualifications gap among the specific group of women named above.
Remarkably, many women, especially those working part-time or who do not work at all are willing to continue their education. To put it more precisely, two-thirds of part-time women workers (66%) or those not working (63%) were willing to undergo additional training or education. On the other hand, many of them (63% not working and 53% part-time) would find it difficult to pay for themselves, while among those prepared to undergo additional training or education, 79% said that they would be more likely to start training if it was free (Walby and Olsen 174).
Naturally, it is also necessary to take into consideration socio-cultural norms and traditions that also affect dramatically the skills deficit of women. However, in the respect to these problems the similar trend may be traced as concerning educational qualifications. To put it more precisely, women of the younger generation are less susceptible to the impact of socio-cultural norms that used to define the life of women over 40.
Nonetheless, it should be said that the problem of the skills deficit is real and it still persists. This is why the skills deficit influences the general statistics and widens the gap between men and women in their competitive struggle in the labour market and deteriorates their employee relations. however, the recent trends are rather positive and leave the room for the real possibility to change the situation for better and make the position of women equal to that of men due to the equal access to educational qualifications and positive socio-cultural changes based on principles of the gender (and actually not only gender) tolerance and equality.
Occupational segregation
Another cause of the existing gap between men and women in the labour market and that creates numerous problems in employee relations is the occupational segregation. In fact, the essence of this problem is rather historical and to a significant extent predetermined by the past trends in the labour market and employee relations. Basically, there is a pronounced concentration of women and men in different occupations, with “women overrepresented in lower paid occupations” (Walby and Olsen 229). This is actually the essence of the occupational segregation. In practice, the occupational segregation in part involves a form of labour market rigidity that prevents the allocations of the most appropriate worker to any give job slot. On the other hand it may be a failure of the market to allocate people to their most productive location and the occupational segregation turns to be supplanted by this objective and purely economic factor that has little relation to gender.
In such a way, it should be said that the occupational segregation is quite an important factor that contributes to the deterioration of the position of women in the labour market and brings in inequality in employee relations of men and women. Moreover, even though there may be some other objective causes that prevent people both men and women from allocation of the most appropriate job slot, but they do not totally eliminate the problem of the occupational segregation which persists and may increase the negative impact of other causes on the deprived and unequal position of women in the labour market and employee relations.
Discrimination is also a very important factor that may be viewed as one of the causes of the currently existing gap in the pay and productivity of men and women which equally affects their position in the labour market and employee relations. To a certain extent, discrimination is similar to the occupational segregations because it prevents the best allocation of workers to job. In such a situation, women turns to be more discriminated than men. The main reason is that often they have lower paid jobs compared to men, which, in their turn, may occupy higher position in a company or an organization. As a result, gender discrimination influences employment of women and their employee relations.
Basically, discrimination is another form of rigidity that may depress women’s potential productivity level, if it means that, for example, there are mis-matches between women’s skills and experience and the jobs they are doing. In such a way, discrimination may be quite a serious factor deteriorating employee relations and women’s position in the labour market but it is necessary to emphasize that this problem is also, to a significant extent, originates from the past historical practices since nowadays the policy of tolerance and equal opportunities dominate in the society. On the other hand, there will still remain possibilities for discrimination until women are less presented in the executive personnel compared with men.
Interruptions in employment to care for family members
Nonetheless, unlike the causes mentioned above leading to the deprived position of women in the labour market and employee relations, there are some natural factors that put women a priori into unequal position compared with men. In this respect, it is possible to speak about interruptions in employment to care for family members. Obviously, this problem is basically caused by stereotypes and traditional views, according to which, women should primarily stuck to household and family. As a result, it is traditionally believed to be their responsibility to take care for family members, regardless their job and career perspectives.
On the other hand, there may be interruptions which are not directly caused by the care for family members, for instance, unemployment which may have the same effect on women’s position in the labour market and decrease their competitiveness. However, all interruptions to employment, whether for unemployment or to care for family members, have a depressing effect on productivity. Naturally, this affects employee relations and again puts women in a disadvantageous position.
Furthermore, while men experience more unemployment, women take much more time out of the labour market than men do in order to care. As a result, men turn to be objectively more preferable for employers to hire than women. At the same time, interruptions in employment of women produce a negative impact on their professional level that may deteriorate their productivity and efficiency of work that apparently would not make an employer to change his/her mind concerning the choice of a man or woman employee.
Moreover, significant numbers of women suffer downward occupational mobility between their highest level occupation before having children and their current one. However, not all mothers stop employment as a result of having children. Those of them who are better educated, better paid and who have the most flexible employers are more likely to retain their labour market attachment.
Obviously, the lack of flexibility is one of the major reason that women find it hard to combine caring and employment. As a result, often women actually have to make a choice either in favour of caring or employment. However, it is necessary to underline that the “increased flexibility and better wages were likely to encourage more women to start work or to increase their working hours” (Allen 188), though it will hardly change the attitude of employers to women and the former would hardly appreciate the idea of increasing flexibility and better wages. Thus, interruptions of employment to care for family members is still one of the objective and serious causes of the worse position of women in the labour market and employee relations.
Part-time employment
Finally, the last cause of the difference in the position of women and men in the labour market and, to a certain extent, discriminating employee relations that will be analyzed in terms of this paper is part-time employment. In actuality, part-time employment accounts for many factors that reduce women’s pay and productivity. It should be pointed out that researches revealed the fact that “women who work part-time are the least educated, work in the most segregated occupations, and have the shortest employment histories” (Walby and Olsen 315). Obviously, in such a situation part-time employment may be viewed as a serious factor deteriorating the position of women in the labour market compared with men and their employee relations may be characterized by the substantially higher degree of discrimination because of being female.
Further, it is worthy of note that while extra years of experience of full-time work increase pay, productivity and efficiency of work of women, and consequently, their competitiveness in the labour market, than extra years of part-time work experience “are associated with lower pay” (Allen 426). Nonetheless, many women are forced to enter part-time work when they have young children to care about but, what is even more important, is the fact that considerable numbers of women do not return to full-time work when their children grow up.
Also it should be said that, according to the recent researches, of women employed part-time, 44% do not have dependent children, while 32% of women with no dependent children work part-time (Walby and Olsen 341). At the same time, in developed countries the part-time sector may constitute quite a substantial sector of the labour market. For instance, the part-time sector, at 23% of the workforce, is larger in the UK than in many other countries. However, regardless the country this sector remains low paid and low productive and, in such a context, a large number of women, being employed in this sector, is quite disturbing and indicating at their disadvantageous position in the labour market and employee relations.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that nowadays the position of women in the labour market and employee relations is still quite difficult. It is not a secret that gradually, the position of women is getting better but, nonetheless, there are a variety of factors which prevent women from being really in equal position compared with men and, what is more, have equal opportunities in the labour market and avoid discrimination in employee relations.
In general, it is necessary to emphasize that some problems which provoke such a situation in the labour market and employee relations are caused by factors that may disappear in the future since even at the present moment these factors are quite weak among the younger generation. Among such factors may be named the gap in educational qualifications, socio-cultural stereotypes and prejudices, and probably discrimination, though the latter is still considered to be one of the most serious problems. On the other hand, there are objective, or natural factors such as interruption of employment to care for children but even such problems can be solved, or at least, their negative effects may be minimized. In this respect, it is worthy of note that the equal time spent by both men and women to care for family members may really change the position of women for better in this respect.

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