Dual Labour Markets definition

In 1971, American economists Doeringer and Piore noticed that the labour market seemed to be segregated into primary and secondary spheres – they labelled this the dual labour market. The authors found that jobs in the primary market were characterised by relatively high salaries, status and responsibilities, career mobility and good working conditions. On the other hand, jobs in the secondary sphere had negative qualities like poor pay and working conditions, little or non-existent promotion opportunities and low levels of job security.

When the authors were writing, jobs in the secondary sphere were frequently filled by women, ethnic minorities and people from disadvantaged backgrounds and upbringings. Initial analysis of the dual labour market asserted that secondary sector workers either chose those kinds of jobs or were there because they weren’t as reliable or skilled as those who worked in the primary sector. It was only later that discrimination was highlighted.

The concept of a dual labour market is part of the wider umbrella of labour market segmentation – some analysts believe the market is split into far more than two sectors. The informal economy, for example, is the ‘cash in hand’ economy, which operates outside traditional legal and administrative frameworks. 


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