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date: 19 June 2021

Abstract and Keywords

‘Skill’ has long been a contested concept within the social sciences. In recent decades, the use of the term by policy makers, employers and academics has broadened considerably, fuelling debate about what skill is and what constitutes skilled work. With ‘skill’ purportedly encompassing behaviours such as discipline and conformity, the concept is said to be in danger of losing its meaning or significance. The growth of interactive service work has also seen the emergence of new and controversial skill concepts such as emotional, aesthetic and articulation work. Are so-called ‘low skilled’ service jobs really low skilled and might recognition of these hidden skills help to achieve better pay, or is there a risk of exaggerating their skill content and raising unrealistic expectations? This chapter charts these controversies, and argues for placing skill in its societal and workplace context and taking seriously issues of power, job complexity and worker autonomy.

Keywords: Skill, autonomy, power, workplace, political economy

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