Sociologists’ Perspective of Employment Inequalities

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3Sociologists’ Perspective of Employment Inequalities

Sociologists’ Perspective of Employment Inequalities

The Sociologists Perspective of Employment Inequalities

This paper analyzes elements of social inequalities in relation to employment. To achieve this objective, the paper will employ two theoretical frameworks which include conflict theory and symbolic interactionism. Social inequalities may include racism, ageism, sexism, religion and social economic inequalities. Socioeconomic inequality can be described as the balance between the wealthy and the poor within a society (Giesecke 2009). Socioeconomic status (SES), which describes socioeconomic inequalities, is characterized by the effects of income, occupation and education.

Conflict perspective of Employment Inequalities

How sociologists perceive the concept of social inequality can be defined through an understanding of social paradigm of conflict or conflict perspective. Conflict paradigm refers to a framework that sociologists use to explain the differences or inequalities that exist across all societies. In essence, conflict perspective of social inequality presents inequality as a harmful aspect of the social system which creates pre-determined winners and loser. To elaborate this further, Solt (2008) explains that the conflict theory is a perspective of social science which asserts that stratification is both harmful and dysfunctional in the sense that it perpetuates inequality which favors only the rich giving them the power to exercise dominance over the poor. According to McLeod (2013) social stratification implies layers of social classes within the society. Conflict theory is suitable for explaining employment inequalities in capitalistic economic systems. In this instance, capitalist economic systems create unfair competition in which the rich more privileged and with powers to every aspect of the economy works to their advantage.

Under the constructs conflict theory, only the rich within a society have the power to create employment opportunities since they control the economy. To maintain their influence, only the rich can occupy highly paying positions within employment ranks. The underprivileged are not given equal opportunities to compete with the rich. This makes the losers remain at the bottom forcing them to work for the rich to survive. On that note, while the rich occupy highly paying employment positions the underprivileged work as gardeners, nannies, maids or errand persons in the homes of the rich (Crompton, 2008). At the corporate level, the underprivileged may work as casual laborers occupying positions of cleaners, tea-girls and to a higher degree supervisors or low ranking line managers. The companies they work for belong to the rich which implies that they are employees of the high class. As a result, the social elite always does anything possible to maintain their power including exploiting the poor by paying them low wages. The low pay allows the poor to live only between paycheck-to-paycheck, meaning that they hardly have any monetary resources to spare for investment or acquisition of wealth. Thus, this ensures that the poor remain in the low socioeconomic strata.

Interactionist Theory and Employment Inequalities

Besides the conflict perspective, social scientists also view employment inequalities in the lens of interactionism. In this case, employment inequalities are the product of predetermined social roles of different social classes. The interactionist perspective is an approach that social scientists use to explain power dynamics are created though micro-interactions (Watson and Korczynski, 2011). The bottom line is that some social roles have more authority or power compared to other depending the social class. The social roles, in this case, refers to the responsibilities or position of an individual within the society.

The social roles are majorly determined by the position of one’s family and the occupation. For example, a manager has more authority or power compared to a receptionist. In this case, the various factors which point out imbalances or inequalities between a manager and a receptionist come into play. For example, the two have unequal employment opportunities because they have unequal education, therefore, they have unequal skills necessary to execute certain responsibilities. Cockerham and Scambler (2010) argue that macro-sociologists point out that employment inequalities may exist due disparities in education and skill sets. As highlighted in the case of the manager and the receptionists, those with higher skill sets resulting from higher levels of education have higher responsibilities compared to those with lower skill sets and education levels.

Regarding one’s family, the employment inequalities may exist due favoritism associated with social classes. In this case, employment opportunity is not served on the basis of eligibility but on the nature of the influence of one’s family. This is also common in capitalist economic systems where social elites are in charge of then economic avenues such as industries. Since remaining powerful is the major force that drives the motives of such those in power, it is likely to observe that a member of a privileged family is given the priority for higher positions in employment ranking compared to employees from low socioeconomic class.


In conclusion, social scientist employs different theories to explain employment inequalities. For example, the conflict theory explains that inequalities exist between various social classes. The social elite has the authority to control the economy therefore, they occupy high ranking positions compared to those from low socioeconomic class. This leaves underprivileged members of the society to occupy low ranking jobs such as cleaners, supervisors, gardeners and nannies. The discussion ha also showed that macro-sociologists use interactionist theory when perceiving employment inequalities. In this case, that high education and skill sets have a better chance of being given high social roles.


Cockerham, W.C. and Scambler, G., 2010, “Medical sociology and sociological theory”, The new Blackwell companion to medical sociology, pp.3-26.

Crompton, R., 2008, Class and stratification, Polity: New York:

Giesecke, J., 2009, “Socio-economic risks of atypical employment relationships: evidence from the German labour market”, European Sociological Review25(6), pp.629-646.

McLeod, J.D., 2013, Social stratification and inequality, In Handbook of the sociology of mental health (pp. 229-253), Springer Netherlands.

Solt, F., 2008, “Economic inequality and democratic political engagement”, American Journal of Political Science52(1), pp.48-60.

Watson, T. and Korczynski, M., 2011, Sociology, work and organization, New York: Routledge.