Capital Accumulation and Young Workers: a Local Labour Market Study of Greater Manchester
thesisposted on 13.11.2018, 11:14 by Edward Yates
This thesis examines structural factors affecting the work and employment conditions of young workers aged 16-24 through a local labour market study of Greater Manchester. It aims to understand worsening labour market circumstances of young workers, chiefly: limited employment opportunities, low-wages, job deskilling, workplace intensification, and punitive regulation of labour markets. The thesis draws on research from global political economy and industrial relations to connect the labour market outcomes of young workers with global processes of capital accumulation. A Marxist theoretical approach and accompanying methodology are used to articulate how abstract concepts including capital, labour, class and the state can be empirically grounded and analysed. This approach allows for a detailed understanding of how capitalist accumulation shapes working conditions. The thesis is guided by three research questions which examine: the position of young workers in relation to global labour markets, the relationship between the local state and young workers, and the relationship between local employers and young workers. Data were collected from several sources: semi-structured interviews with 33 labour market actors, policy documents, economic reports from local state institutions and local employers, and other secondary data sources such as survey data and government reports. The thesis makes several contributions to the knowledge base. It challenges essentialist and inter-generational explanations of young workers which explain poor working conditions flowing from youthfulness itself. Instead, the thesis historically situates young workers in industrial shifts which have taken place since the 1970s, notably the decline of manufacturing and the growth of the service sector. The employment conditions across the latter sector are found to be reliant on the generation of surplus value in absolute rather than relative terms, to the detriment of young workers. The research finds that these shifts have been exacerbated by neoliberal governance strategies which increase the structural power of capital relative to labour. The research finds there are limits to improving the conditions of young workers through social democratic strategies due to the fundamentally contradictory nature of capitalist accumulation and the inability to organise in and against the market.