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Gender relations, technology and employment change in the contemporary textile industry.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date11/1991
JournalSociology
Journal number4
Volume25
Number of pages19
Pages569-587
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This paper examines employment patterns in the British textile industry over the last twenty years. In particular it focuses on a dramatic structural shift in the balance of male and female employees within textiles. From the onset of the Industrial Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century until the 1960s, around two-thirds of textile employees were female. Over the last twenty years textile manufacture has become increasingly the domain of male employees. The research reported was located in Rochdale, one of the six localities which were researched as part of the Social Change and Economic Life Initiative. Rochdale has long been a major centre for textile production. The data are based upon a survey of textile plants undertaken in 1986 and 1987. The analysis revealed that employment in these textile plants had become increasingly male during the period between 1980 and 1986. These changes were more pronounced in larger establishments and within the minority of plants that had introduced advanced machinery. A further analysis of 987 work histories collected in 1986 revealed that women were far less likely to enter textiles in the 1980s than at any time since the advent of industrialization. A major reason for this lies in the increasing adoption of full-time shift work by plants in the town. Most part-time employment has been eliminated from textile mills as they seek to run advanced equipment continuously. The growth of flexible patterns of employment in the burgeoning service sector has interacted with these developments in textiles. Women still seek paid employment in Rochdale but no longer in the textile industry.