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The Good, the Bad, and the Ordinary: Work Identities in "Good" and "Bad" Jobs in the United Kingdom

Sukanya Sengupta, Paul K. Edwards, and Chin-Ju Tsai

Work and Occupations, 36, 26-55

Abstract

Much debate exists about postbureaucratic organizational forms that are sometimes felt to strengthen the polarization between good and bad jobs. Small firms provide one test in that they lack bureaucracy. Such firms from two contrasting sectors, food manufacture and the media, are used to assess, respectively, the models of good and bad jobs. Data from 66 firms and 203 employees show a mixed picture: Food jobs are bad for pay but relatively good for autonomy. Media jobs offer autonomy, but this is constrained by tight performance demands and low pay. These results help to explain why national surveys find no polarization in terms of autonomy and are explained by the economic contingencies of the two sectors. Ordinariness rather than stark polarization is the key picture.