The Academic Labour Market - a mug's game

When I finished my PhD ten years ago my supervisor told me that there was no future in academic jobs, things had changed since he entered it in the 1970s. "You could have told me this a little early" I thought. 

Here are three useful posts on the academic labour market 

1. How Academia Resembles a Drug Gang

Shows how academia has not just a dual labour market, of insiders with job tenure and career progression and outsiders, trapped on temporary contracts, but also details the different ways in which this market operates in the UK, Germany and the US. Bottom line is most outsiders, stay outside.


2. Casualisation of Labour in the Irish University 

That post prompted the question, how do things fare in Ireland. This post provides a partial answer. "Permanent jobs increasingly disappear in favour of low-paid, temporary employment. Such work comes without security, proper remuneration or benefits, and renders invisible the precarious workers whose labour the university relies on to function. These workers often teach core modules in departments or are the face of vital research projects yet they are denied recognition within the institution. From the perspective of the administration, these citizens of the university are not part of the staff compliment but merely temporary contracts to be “suppressed” upon expiration."


3. Mentors verus sponsors in Labour Markets 

And related a very interesting post, on how it is not mentorship that matters, but sponsors "So I think there should be a lot of sympathy for  recent research showing that mentorship (communicating with more advanced people) does not have an effect on career advancement but sponsors (people who pick you, push you, and get benefit from it) do have an effect." 

It concludes with " So, if you care about women or minorities advancing in some career track (like academia), then forget the nice lunches. Administrators should double down on matching people with power players."

A lovely sentiment, but instead senior administrators within Irish Universities have spent 5.8 million on legal feels, on cases relating to staffing matters. Many of these cases related to the Protection of Fixed Term Workers Act which states that employees may not be employed on a series of fixed-term contracts indefinitely, that is keep the outsiders out.


Picture: CC NC BY aacarroll

Come see my photographs

I am contributing to a photo exhibition which is being held on the closing day of a two day symposium on World Ecology. More information about the symposium here, poster for the exhibit below.

landscapes of crisis poster.jpg

Future work on work

Over on OrgTheory there is an interesting blog post on where US research on labour, organizations, and work might be headed.

I wonder what a European list would look like?

One idea might be to look at European Research Projects. These are large five year projects. The work topics below that have been funded since 2009 and so will be publishing results in the upcoming years.

* Labour markets and transnational labour; worker hetergenity, ( ,
* Women's labour market behaviour and participation ( ,
* New deals in the new economy (
* Employment and health (
* Marketisation of society (


European Sociology Association Conference 2013 Turin: First Impressions

I`m at the European Sociological Conference in Turin.

Take home points.

* The conference helpers are wearing t-shirts with phrases like `social actor` or `social phenonemon` on their backs. This is both cute and creeply de-humanising, a bit like sociology.
* It would be so lovely if the research streams were in the same location throughtout the conference, instead they are split between buildings, which has lead to much wandering lost in Turin. I am a sociologist, not a geographer. I can`t read a map.
* The sessions on work-life balance are filled with women, the sessions on industrial relations are filled with men.

Interesting papers so far;
* Thomas P. Boje (Roskilde University), Anders Ejrnaes (Roskilde University), The Economic Crisis and Precarity in Europe - How Do the Different Social Groups React?
Take home point; the more deprevation exeperienced, the lower are political participation rates, except in the Nordic countries.

* Silent Marginalization? Concession Bargaining and Trade Unions in the Irish Recession, Bill Roche, University College, Dublin & Paul Teague, Queen's University, Belfast
Take home point: real danger exists that the new norm of restricted concession bargaining, which ultimately will result in the silent marginalization of trade unions.

*Whose Insecurity – Which Insecurity?
Antti Saloniemi, University of Tampere
Anna K. Väisänen, University of Tampere
Take home point; there isn`t one universal experience of insecurity. Young, male, blue collar workers experience insecurity in terms of fears of job loss and short term contracts. Women public sector workers experience insecurity in terms of worsening working conditions.

*Towards a New Coal Worker in Industrial Relations in Tunçbilek Coal Mine, in Kütahya, Turkey: Where Have all the Solidarity Have Gone?
Sibel Kalaycıoğlu, Middle East Technical University
Kezban Celik, Ondokuz Mayıs University,
Take home point; privatisation of mining in Turkey has lead to a worsening of working conditions, pay and job security.

*Impact of Atypical Employment on European Demography
Andranik Melik-Tangyan (Tangian), Karlsruhe Istitute of Technology
Take home point: The higher atypical employment is, the higher are the rates of inequality, lower is the fertility rate and higher is the immigration. These trends are due to continue (though the numbers are aggregates, as ever, the devil is in the details).

I am up tomorrow,
14:00 – 15:30 / Saturday 31 / CLE B3
a10RN20 / Archiving and Using Archived Qualitative Data: Dilemmas or

Aileen O'Carroll (National University of Ireland, Maynooth), Data Archives and Sensitive Data. Lessons from the Boston College Oral Histories.