What does sociology research tell us about getting a job?

People have been divided based on race, religion, education, income, power, way of life, and culture for many centuries. The mode of life of the people also changed as time went on. As people started accepting diverse cultures, lifestyles, and religions, the social divisions that were so pronounced in the past started to change (Warwick 11). The key query, however, is "whether these social distinctions still exist and if they still have the same impact on our lives as they formerly did." The work environment will be examined in this essay along with a few social inequities and how they have impacted it. It is true that a lot had changed since the 18th century when the social gap was so big, and people from difference social classes could not associate. But it is naïve to this that these social inequalities no longer exist. Although they are not instigated openly, they do exist particularly in the workplace. Despite the great evolution in the labour market from a time where all CEOs were men, social barriers still exist (Lynch 5). This essay is going to look at three particular obstacles that hind equality in the workplace: gender inequality, race issue and unemployment rate.

Gender Inequality

Gender generally refers to a set of culturally defined characteristics which is society’s view of people being feminine or masculine. Gender inequality in the workplace has been present for a long time just like in many another place e.g. politics and leadership. Sociologist and research have for decades investigated the cause of the unfair sexual division of labour. Some have stated biological explanation while others blame socialisation of gender roles.

Before the nineteenth century, the gender roles were known with certainty; women did housekeeping chores while men did the other jobs. But later in the twentieth century, women’s position in the labour workforce had increased. They had realised the importance of self-reliance, and this resulted in a change in the social discourse. Other factors like increased cost of living and expansion of the service industry also contributed to the change in the gender division of labour. Research indicated that the employment rate for women had increased from 56% in 1971 to 70% in 2004 and the rate of employment for men had declined by 14% during the same period (Thomas 80).

Job Discrimination

Despite women’s increased involvement in the job industry, inequality in the workplace remains. Women were under-represented in high-earning, high-status professions and this the by a recent survey investigating vertical segregation. The research stated that 83% of chief executives, 71% of sales managers and 70% of management consultants, all high paying jobs, were men. While 76% of cleaners, 96% of dinner ladies and 95% of receptionists, all low paying and low-status jobs, were women (Baer 124).

From the study, it is evident that high-paying, high-status job are male dominated since they are perceived as “masculine”. Women, on the other hand, are conquered by patriarchal values that discriminate and restrain women despite the labour evolution. It is thus correct to say that jobs are highly gendered, there those that are only for male while there those that are only for the women (Baer 113).

Wage gap

Just like the work’s organisational structure is rigged in favour of men so is the pay system. Women have failed to attain equality in pay, despite their successful campaign for equal pay legislation. From a survey conducted by the Office of National Statistics, the wage gap that was thought to be narrowing has a matter of fact increased. The gap as at 2005 stood at 17.1%, for women and men working full time. From the report, it was calculated that in a lifetime, men earn £369,000 more than their female colleagues (Smith 509).

This wage segregation could be attributed to many factors, mainly to horizontal segregation. Since majority of the female working population in huddled into a range of semi-skilled, low status and poorly paid jobs. Manufacturing, construction, business and IT jobs are male predominated while women are represented in health care, catering, teaching and social care. This is a representation of the “two spheres” ideology regarding horizontal segregation.

Another factor that may affect wage segregation is the fact that most women prefer part-time jobs to full-time jobs. Numbers indicate that 5.2 million women prefer part-time compared to 1.2 men in 2004 (Gidden 757). This preference is attributed to self-selection (choosing to have more time to spend at home), education disparities or work experience disparities. Due to women’s domestic responsibility and social life they tend to choose their jobs based on the geographical proximity and this limits their opportunities. We can say that the position of women in low status, low paying jobs are as a result of server day-to-day time constraint rather than a long term choice to maximise pay and prestige.

Race issue

Racism principally means the nationality and ethnicity that make other people seem superior or inferior to others. Sociology has had a significant impact on the issue of race, from the establishment of the field and formulation of the classical theoretical statement to the present (Wilson 245). Since the 18th century, the sociological perspective of race has changed always mirroring the shift in the political world. As the times changed, the sociology of race became a central topic. More civil rights movements were formed to campaign for the rights of blacks. Policies and reforms that focused on overcoming prejudice and discrimination were formed.

Although recognition of these problems in the 20th century increased and political reforms made headway in combating them, racial injustice and inequality were never overcome. Racial discrimination continues to be pervasive in cultures throughout the world. It has infringed itself in many aspects of the society including the labour market. While we can tell the when discrimination in the workforce began, we can assume that the practice of discrimination in the workplace is as old as society and racism itself (Wilson 250).

Race Discrimination

Discrimination is a significant issue in the labour market economics across developed and developing countries. In spite of racial discrimination being a universal phenomenon, its manifestation and intensity vary country’s national historical circumstances, economic context and policy framework (Becker 45). Despite the significant induction of progress, the U.S labour force is also affected by discrimination with African American being twice as likely to be unemployed compared to whites. They also earn almost 25% less when employed than their white counterparts. Although racism main refers to discrimination against the African Americans, it also affects other minority groups like the Indians, Asians, Pakistanis and Chinese.

Research is a critical aspect when trying to understand and adequately address the issue of race discrimination in employment. Hence several types of research have been conducted to broaden the knowledge base on discrimination, set benchmarks to measure progress towards equality and to inform policy choices. One of the many types of research on this topic includes the study that aimed to prove that labour market discrimination does exist.5000 sample resumes were written for 1300 jobs vacancies. These identical resumes were randomly assigned black-sounding names and white sounding names. The requests for interviews from the employers were used to observe the impact. Resumes with white sounding names received 50% more callback compared to those of black sounding names (Mortenson, 2005). These results proved that all other things being equal, race is still important in the job market.

Most brown or black people in many parts of America report having experienced some form of racism in the workplace, whether it pertained to getting a job or the attitude they faced in the job. In most cases, job application with Black or Chinese names is deliberately overlooked while those with white names are given more attention. Those who are lucky enough to get a job are usually treated unethically and subjected to ridicule. 1 out of every five black women who work general jobs reported to have faced some racism either in the form of low pay, short unpaid maternity level or verbal and sexual harassment (Wilson 289). Black women face a harder time than men since the face to forms of discrimination.

Wage gap

Blacks and other minority groups also face inequality in the pay system. This difference could be due to racial discrimination or other factors like educational level and work experience. Although new policies are being formulated to facilitate equality in the workplace, the racial wage gap is widening (Smith 529). Recent research by the Economic Policy Institute report that the wage gap between blacks and whites which is at 26.7%, is at the worst it’s even been in several decades. Whites today earn an average of $25.22 hourly while blacks earn $18.49. This rate is an increase from $19.62 per hour for whites and $16.07 for blacks back in 1979 .

The widening race wage gap has little to do with access to education, disparities in the work experience or where one live; rather it was as a result of growing discrimination. White females who had just graduated and had no experienced earned 10.7% more than their black counterparts. The same applied to white men who had the same level of education and experience as black men but still managed to a 27.2% more than them (Becker 57). In the long-term, the growing wage gap will result in less consumer spending, increased poverty and more strain on social safety net programs. It may also affect people’s view of the American dream.

Equal employment policies have been established to try and end discrimination, particularly in the United States for decades now. The first law, the Equal Pay Act, which was implemented in 1963, made it mandatory to pay employees the same wage irrespective of their gender or race (Gold, 2001). After that many Civil Right Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act were formed but this still did little to end discrimination. The recent administration suggested a proposal to track wage data for contract companies with more than 100 employees and all other public companies (Baer, 97). This plan was aimed at reducing wage inequality. Will this indeed work where other reforms have failed?

Unemployment rate

The unemployment rate is perhaps the most important factor that affects getting a job. The unemployment rate is explained as the percentage of unemployed workers in the total labour force (Vedder 3). The unemployment rate is an economic indicator of the performance of the labour market. When workers are unemployed, their families lose wages and so do the nation as a whole, regarding s ervices and goods that could have been produced. Unemployed works lose their purchasing power, which affects other workers causing unemployment this leading to a cascading effect that ripples (Erlinghagen 72).

Difficulty in getting a job

Despite America having the lowest unemployment rate of 5%, this is still a major issue of concern. From a statistics research that was conducted in 2015, it revealed that despite the low unemployment rates, only 62.7% of adults are working. The Labour Force Participation rate, which measures how many people above the age of 16 are working or aggressively seeking employment, hasn’t been this low since the 1970’s(Erlinghagen, 80).When a country has a high unemployment rate, it becomes really difficult for people seeking employment to get jobs. The case is still the same for America with about 2.1 million people unable to find employment for over six months.

Social Policies

To reduce the rate of unemployment, the government implements policies that influence demand or supply and thus improve the working in the labour market. Demand side policies reduce demand and cause deficient unemployment while supply policies reduce structural unemployment. Demand side policies are essential during a recession and a rise in cyclical unemployment. Some of these policies include fiscal policy and monetary policy. Supply side policies deal with microeconomic issues and seek to overcome imperfections of the labour market and minimise unemployment caused by supply side factors. Supply side has three forms of unemployment; frictional, structural and classical. These types of unemployment are reduced through education and training, employment subsidies, improved flexibility of the labour market, improved geographical mobility among others.


Employment is determined by a lot of different factors that are all relevant to the labour market. It is thus important to understand all this sociological aspect of work to be able to better survive in the job market.


Baer, S. “Law Against Discrimination.” Canada: University of Toronto, 2007. Print

Becker, G. “Economics of Discrimination.” Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957. Print

Bromberger, N. “Government policies affecting the distribution of income, 1940-80” Public Policy Perspectives, 1982. Print

Erlinghagen, Marcel, and Matthias Knuth. “Unemployment as an institutional construct? Structural differences in non-employment between selected European countries and the United States.”  Journal of Social Policy 39, no. 01 (2010): 71-94. Print

Gold, M. An Introduction to the Law of Employment Discrimination. :Cornell University Press, 2008. Print

Guide to the concept of suitable employment in the context of unemployment benefit: adopted by the Committee of Experts on Social Security (CS-SS) at its 4th meeting (Strasbourg, 24-26 March 2009) . Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 2010. Print.

Heather, Long. “Why doesn’t 4.9% unemployment feel great?” CNN Money 6 February 2016: 6. Print

Lynch, Kathleen, and Claire O'Riordan. Social class, inequality and higher education: barriers to equality of access and participation among school leavers . Dublin: Equality Studies Centre. U College Dublin, 1996. Print.

Mortensen, D. “Wage Dispersion: Why Are Similar People Paid Differently” Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005. Print

Smith, Ryan A. "Race, gender, and authority in the workplace: Theory and research." Annual Review of Sociology 28, no. 1 (2002): 509-542.

Thomas and Horii, Y.: “Non-discrimination and equality of opportunity and treatment in employment and occupation” in ILO: International labour standards: a global approach, (ILO; Geneva, 2003), pp-77-101.

Vedder, Richard K., and Lowell E. Gallaway. Out of work: unemployment and government in twenty-first century America. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1993. Print.

Warwick-Booth, Louise. Social inequality. London: Sage, 2013. Print.

Wilson, Franklin D., Marta Tienda, and Lawrence Wu. "Race and unemployment: Labor market experiences of black and white men, 1968-1988." Work and Occupations 22, no. 3 (1995): 245-270.

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