The effects of new technology on employment structures in the service sector
This thesis explores the interrelationships between the labour process, the development of technology and patterns of gender differentiation. The introduction of front office terminals into building society branches forms the focus of the research. Case studies were carried out in nine branches, three each from three building societies. Statistical data for the whole movement and a survey of ten of the top thirty societies provided the context for the studies. In the process of the research it became clear that it was not technology itself but the way that it was used, that was the main factor in determining outcomes. The introduction of new technologies is occurring at a rapid pace, facilitated by continuing high growth rates, although front office technology could seldom be cost justified. There was great variety between societies in their operating philosophies and their reasons for and approach to computerisation, but all societies foresaw an ultimate saving in staff. Computerisation has resulted in the deskilling of the cashiering role and increased control over work at all stages. Some branch managers experienced a decrease in autonomy and an increase in control over their work. Subsequent to this deskilling there has been a greatly increased use of part time staff which has enabled costs to be reduced. There has also been a polarisation between career and non-career staff which, like the use of part time staff, has occurred along gender lines. There is considerable evidence that societies' policies, structures and managerial attitudes continue to directly and indirectly discriminate against women. It is these practices which confine women to lower grades and ensure their dependence on the family and which create the pool of cheap skilled labour that societies so willingly exploit by increasing part time work. Gender strategies enter management strategies throughout the operations of the organisation.