Aging and Working in the New Economy
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Aging and Working in the New Economy

Changing Career Structures in Small IT Firms

Edited by Julie Ann McMullin and Victor W. Marshall

The case studies and analyses developed in this timely book provide insight into the structural features of small and medium-sized firms in the information technology sector, and the implications of these features for the careers of people who are employed by them.
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Chapter 8: The Structure of IT Work and its Effect on Worker Health: Job Stress and Burnout Across the Life Course

Kim M. Shuey and Heather Spiegel


Kim M. Shuey and Heather Spiegel The Information technology (IT) industry is a key player in what Manuel Castells (2000) describes as an emerging ‘network society’ within today’s New Economy – an economy characterized by a number of trends, including rapid growth in the service and technology sectors and an ‘accelerated pace of technological and scientific advance as well as equally rapid obsolescence’ (Powell and Snellman, 2004: 201). Compared to businesses in previous decades, today’s firms face more intense worldwide competition, leading to greater pressure to increase productivity and reduce costs through means such as labor market flexibility. Firms in high-wage economies, such as information technology, face additional pressures to adapt in ways that allow them to more easily absorb their high wage costs, accomplished through strategies such as the development of niche markets and work intensification to increase productivity (Taplin and Winterton, 2002). The demand for flexibility is in part responsible for the disappearance of the ‘life-long career’ and the era of long-term employment contracts and mutual commitments between employer and worker. Accompanying a focus on increased flexibility, ideas of permanency have given way to a rise in non-standard work arrangements and a labor market in which employees are faced with greater uncertainty and insecurity, along with a decreased ability to control their own working lives and plan for the future (Brown, 1997; Carnoy, 2000; Korczyk, 2001). As a result of these broader economic changes, risks that were once borne by employers are increasingly shifted to workers (Beck, 2002). In...

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