The social valuation of skills. An analysis through linguistic work in the new economy

Ubalde, Josep
Director/a: Alarcón Alarcón, Amado Several debates on how skills should be conceptualised and valued have arisen from changes in the content and relevance of them in the labour markets of the new economy. In mainstream economics, skill is one of the main ingredients of human capital and its value is determined by the supply-demand dynamic of the labour market. According to heterodox views, however, skills are socially constructed. The value of skills results from political negotiation, reflecting the power and status of diverse interest groups, as well as the predominant ideologies of society. The dissertation focuses on the valuation of linguistic skills, a cross-cutting kind of skill that is basic for both cognitive and interactive work in the new economy, but which is involved in controversies regarding the devaluation and deskilling of workers and occupations. From a mixed methods approach, the dissertation presents three papers that study the impact of institutionalized ideologies on linguistic skills valuation. The first paper analyses how the attitudes towards immigrants across European countries is related to the devaluation of their foreign language knowledge. The second paper test whether those linguistic skills which are devaluated for their traditional association with women’s work, low-status service sector jobs and ethnicity are unrewarded across occupations in the US labour market. The third and final paper describes the relevance of linguistic work in defining job categories in the call centre sector in Spain and the struggles between employers and workers regarding the valuation of language skills. The thesis concludes that ideologies and social institutions influence the valuation of linguistic skills above and beyond the market dynamic. A serious consideration in political and social action of such ideologies and institutions is required in order to fairly value workers skills in the new economy.
Type of Publication:
Phd Thesis