chapter  6
21 Pages

Divergent divisions of construction labour: Britain and Germany

Abstract This chapter compares the divisions of labour in the construction industries of Britain and Germany. It shows how the nature of construction skills, in terms of vertical (hierarchical) and horizontal (functional) divisions in Germany, has generally become less manual and more abstract, as evident from the dramatic decrease in unskilled, labouring work and from the general increase in APTC (administrative, professional, technical and clerical) employment. By contrast, in Britain divisions appear to have remained relatively stable over the past thirty years. These differences are borne out in comparisons of actual projects and the employment profiles of firms. In the UK, the horizontal division of labour – both professional and operative – is much deeper and more fragmented than in Germany. At the same time, the vertical skill structure is far less permeable, so that career progression paths are unclear. These differences are shown to go together with the institutional frameworks governing each system and characterised in Britain by weak institutional linkages and individualisation of the employment relationship. In contrast, the German industry has a high degree of institutionalised linkages and collective processes, including collective bargaining of skilled rates covering not only all operative levels but almost all professional levels.