Changing Patterns of Work, Care and Public Policy in Europe and North America
Edited by Diane Perrons, Colette Fagan, Linda McDowell, Kath Ray and Kevin Ward
Chapter 2: Work Intensification in the UK
Brendan Burchell INTRODUCTION The long-hours culture of the UK has become common knowledge across Europe. This chapter investigates a less obvious but more insidious change in the labour market – work intensification, or the increasing effort that employees put into their jobs during the time that they are working. Research suggests that the intensification of work may be a greater problem in terms of stress, psychological health and family tension than long working hours. This chapter will start with a consideration of the evidence that there has been a change in employee effort in the past quarter-century. This in turn means considering how the effort that an employee expends on their job might be measured, and an evaluation of the evidence available at various points in time. I will then briefly review the literature considering the effects of work intensification on the well-being of employees and their families. The reasons for the increased intensity of work, and its possible recent decline, will be discussed. Finally, the chapter will consider the influence of trade unions, the courts and the media on the rate of work intensification. THE 1970s AND 1980s In a recent review of the literature on work intensification, Green (1999) suggests a number of ways in which effort might be measured. Apart from self-reporting, he also considers quantifiable proxy (for instance industrial accidents), case-studies, productivity and a measure called the Percentage Utilization of Labour (PUL) index based on work-study. The attempt by Bennett and Smith-Gavine (1987) to measure the intensity...
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