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Title: The effect of the introduction of new technology upon female labour in the retail sector
Author: Sawers, Lesley
ISNI:       0000 0001 3554 4030
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 1985
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The retail sector plays an important role in the economy. It contributes ten percent of G.D.P. and employs 1.87 million people, of whom sixty percent are female. The likely effect of new technology upon the nature and content of retail work is therefore of considerable importance. The development of microelectronics has led to an increasing number of technological applications in the retail sector. Most of which are designed to increase output whilst reducing the level of human input. This could result in the substitution of capital for labour in a traditionally labour intensive industry. This expected substitution of labour in the retail sector reflects the experience of manufacturing and office work, where earlier technological applications have resulted in the alienation and distancing of the workforce. This experience was expected to be paralleled in the retail sector. This study considers four separate but related issues concerning the introduction of new technology in the retail sector. Firstly, that technological applications change the nature and content of work. Secondly, that different groups react differently towards technology e.g. older women will be more resistant to change, as would less educated people or those lower in the organisational hierarchy. Thirdly, new technology affects job satisfaction, and lastly, that employment opportunities for women within retailing will also be reduced with the introduction of technology. The research considers each objective in turn. The actual experience of the retail workers was significantly different than had been expected or predicted from either factory of office work. The level of job satisfaction was increased and the high level of alienation that already existed in the industry was reduced through using new technology. The experience of the office and manufacturing sector was not mirrored in retail work. Supermarket workers actually welcomed the introduction of new technology. It reduced the boredom of performing repetitive tasks. Contrary to original expectations, supermarket workers welcomed reduced personal contact with customers. They also expressed favourable opinions towards depersonalising the service further. This was in direct contradiction to the opinion expressed in the manufacturing and office sectors. The skill level as perceived by the workforce, was also found to increase with the introduction of new technology. No significant differences were found in opinions when data was further analysed by sex. age or occupation. The fourth objective could not be tested in the study, due to the lack of empirical data upon which to base analysis. The study concludes that the introduction of new technology into the retail sector does change the nature and content of work. Although not as originally predicted from the literature.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Labor supply--Effect of technological innovations on ; Women--Employment--Effect of technological innovations on