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Changing Internal Labor Markets in Service and Sales Occupations

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[Excerpt] In this paper, I address the question of how deregulation in the telecommunications industry has altered the internal labor market structure of clerical and sales jobs—that is, the traditionally female-dominated operator, service, and sales jobs in the industry. This question is important for several reasons. First, from the perspective of the internal labor market literature, the Bell System represented a classic example of a highly developed and stable system. Given growing conventional wisdom that internal labor markets are disintegrating, the telecommunications industry provides a useful case for examining the extent to which corporate responses to deregulation have led to an erosion of the prior system. Second, from the perspective of women and the labor market, the highly unionized telecommunications industry was one of the few service industries in which women found high-skilled, high-pay jobs, with long career ladders. Do these jobs continue to be high-skilled and to provide women with opportunities for career development and income growth? Compared to other service industries, for example, wage levels and union density among women in telecommunications were over twice as high as the average in all other service industries (Batt and Strausser 1998). Third, from a management perspective, the importance of these jobs has increased dramatically since deregulation. Customer service and sales occupations represent the face of the corporation to the customer, and with dramatic increases in competition, companies have come to view these operations much more strategically than in the past (Batt and Keefe 1999). They have also shifted the workforce from service into sales to compete in deregulated markets. Between 1983 and 1996, for example, employment in low-skilled clerical positions fell by 38%, due largely to the increased use of information technology and process reengineering; employment in sales, however, increased by 105% (CPS merged annual earnings files).

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telemarketing; deregulation; labor market; clerical work; sales


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Required Publisher Statement: © Labor and Employment Relations Association. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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