Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Reshaping the Division of Labour: Work and Class in New Zealand Since the 1980s

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posted on 2021-11-10, 20:03 authored by Ongley, Patrick

This thesis is concerned with the relationship between economic restructuring, the changing division of labour and social stratification, with particular reference to New Zealand in the period since the 1980s. It begins with a critique of theories of capitalist development, leading to the adoption of an approach which focuses on both the longterm evolution of the division of labour and the ways in which production and employment are subject to periodic upheavals from episodes of economic crisis and restructuring. The regulation approach is used to analyse the restructuring of the New Zealand economy following the global crisis of the 1970s, which transformed it from a model based on mass production and interventionist regulation to one based on flexible production and liberal regulation. This provides a context for analysing related changes in employment, focussing particularly on the massive job losses in New Zealand’s goods-producing industries, the subsequent period of high unemployment and the eventual resurgence in job growth based on more flexible use of labour, expansion in producer and consumer service industries, and growth in both skilled and routine whitecollar occupations. The remainder of the thesis is concerned with the effects of these changes on patterns of social stratification. A consideration of the theoretical and conceptual issues surrounding class, stratification and the division of labour leads to the development of a model of class structure based on relations of production and hierarchical divisions of labour. Census data is reclassified to fit the model and analysed to show changes in patterns of stratification since the 1980s, looking particularly at shifts in the relative size and composition of middle-class and working-class employment and the implications for class formation. The model is also used to analyse changes in structural inequalities between the sexes and between ethnic groups, with a focus on the ways in which different groups were affected by the restructuring process and how this was influenced by historically gendered and ethnicised divisions of labour. The thesis concludes with an assessment of the extent of change in employment and stratification and whether this is indicative of a transition to a post-industrial economy.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Pearson, David; el-Ojeili, Chamsy