4.1.3 Different ‘sectors’ of work

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Unit 4 Contents

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Although the different so-called ‘sectors’ of working life are not distinguished primarily by where people work, such changes as just outlined blur the distinctions among them.  Four main sectors can be distinguished.

  • The private sector This term refers to companies that produce goods or services which they sell to customers.  They have to make a profit in order to continue to exist.  Private sector companies range from tiny, one-person operations, to vast corporations doing business in many countries.  The latter are often known as ‘transnational corporations’ (TNCs).
  • The public sector This term covers organizations which have been set up at the initiative of government (whether national or local) and whose funding comes (mainly if not wholly) from money raised by government from taxation.  Public sector bodies, therefore, do not have to make a profit from selling things in order to survive.  The public sector in Britain includes:

– central government departments (e.g., the Department of Social Security and the Home Office)

– large and small service agencies (such as the National Health Service and, as just mentioned, the Homes and Communities Agency)

– local authorities at various levels (from the Mayor of London or the City of Birmingham to small parish councils).

  • The ‘third sector’ This consists of organizations which have been set up independently of government (so are in this respect like private companies), but whose funding does not come mainly from selling things and which don’t need to make a profit to stay in existence.  ‘Third sector’ bodies include housing associations, charities, campaigning organizations, and some educational bodies.  The finance of third sector bodies comes from a combination of grants from the public sector, charitable donations, sponsorship by private companies, and some selling of goods or services.

The label ‘third sector’ refers to what used to be known as the ‘voluntary sector’.  Neither label is ideal.  The problem with ‘voluntary sector’ was that it seemed to imply that people who work in this sector are volunteers, which most aren’t – they are ordinary employees earning a salary.  However, ‘third sector’ isn’t ideal, because there is not an inherent relationship between the third, private and public sectors that means that non-profit organizations should be seen as ‘third’.  (In principle any of these three could be called ‘third’!)

  • The domestic sector This term refers to those whose primary work is in bringing up children and running their own homes.  Everyone does at least a bit of house-work (don’t they?) and therefore some work in the ‘domestic sector’.  But for some people, the domestic sector is the main location of their work – which as in other sectors can involve long hours.  Generally speaking, work in the domestic sector is not paid, whether through selling things or from tax revenue.  People whose main work is in the domestic sector depend for income mainly on either the earnings of one or more other workers in their household or on payments from government agencies (such as, in the UK, Child Benefit or Housing Benefit).

Note that the domestic sector could have been put first in this list of sectors of work. The only reason I have put it fourth is that the ‘third sector’ is, in fact, called this with reference to the private and public sectors.  So the ‘third sector’ is third in the list.

A large number of adult people do not work in any of those sectors. Or, to be more precise, they don’t work in any of the first three but would like to do so, and such work as they do in the domestic sector they would do anyway if they also did other work.  The main reasons for people not working are:

  • unemployment – not being able to get a job when you want and need one
  • incapacity for work through disability (whether life-long or from injury) or illness
  • retirement.

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EXERCISE

Reflect and make notes on your own experience of work and/or that of others you know well.

Which sector(s) have you worked in?  If you have not begun working life yet, what are the kinds of work you know something about through family members and friends?

Which of the adjectives used in screen 4.1.1 apply to this work?  They were: fulfilling, boring, lonely, sociable, physically hard, intellectually difficult, mundane, creative.

What other words describe it?

Did you have to work very long hours?  Or did you have the opposite problem – that there was not enough to do?

Was the pay good enough?  Would you say the level of pay was just, i.e. appropriate for the work done and for the worker?  Was it enough to meet your needs?  Was it too much?!  What were the physical working conditions like – excellent, pleasant, inadequate, or dangerous?

What were the effects of having done a particular job on your life afterwards?

If you can, discuss these questions with others.

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End of 4.1.3

Go to 4.1.4 Issues in working life

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