Recruitment as a Means of Control

Part of the Explorations in Sociology book series (EIS)


The relationship between social control and the labour process is an area which has received considerable attention in recent years. Littler (1982) rightly stresses the importance of the employment relationship in any discussion of control in the firm, identifying dependence as the crucial dimension of this relationship. He notes how Japanese companies attempt to create dependence on the firm by paternalistic employment practices which in turn are reinforced by the structure of the labour market. For example, most Japanese newspaper adverts call for workers under thirty and this means that employees leaving a large firm get ‘pulled down’ to the bottom of the labour market: to small firms which pay lower wages, have poorer working conditions and are unable to guarantee security of employment. A parallel structure, he argues, exists within the British banking system. The big four banks recruit from school, do their own training and expect their staff to stay for life (although expectations at recruitment are different for male and female applicants2). An unofficial agreement among the ‘Big Four’ not to employ staff who have left another bank ensures that there is virtually no labour market in British banking. Llewellyn (1981) noted how some male workers in her study had made positive attempts to get out of banking but had failed to find a better job. As they had only bank exams, they were unqualified for anything else. Once workers accept that they can no longer move, Littler suggests, they are more likely to accept company policy (Littler, 1982, p. 44).


Labour Market Social Control Informal Method Union Official Machine Shop 
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© British Sociological Association 1986

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