Chapter 4: Global Concepts – Work

Chapter 4: Global Concept - Work


The nature of work, its technical quality, and the social relations under which work is undertaken have changed profoundly over time. So too has our understanding and thinking about work and its place within wider society. This chapter explores developments in work, working life and our changing understanding of work with a view to establishing a historical context for current thinking about safety and health at work.

Keywords: work, working life, industrial revolution, division of labour, mass production, work in Australia

First year of publication: 2012

Current Version: 2012

Chapter 4: Global Concepts - Work

Table of contents

Table of contents

1 Introduction
2 Historical development of the concept of ‘work’
2.1 Pre-Industrial Revolution (before 1750)
2.2 Industrial and Social Revolution (1750 – 1850)
2.3 Post-Industrial Revolution (after 1850)
3 Factors shaping work in Australia
3.1 Increased paid employment of women
3.2 Fragmentation of work
3.3 Demise of the ‘standard working week’
3.4 Determination of pay and conditions
4 Re-emergence of the ‘working poor’
5 Work and health
6 Summary


Dr Mike Rafferty, BBus, BA(Hons), PhD
Senior Research Analyst Workplace Research Centre (WRC), University of Sydney

Mike has undertaken research on work, labour markets, skills development, occupational health and safety, and financial aspects of working life, including mortgage stress, superannuation and retirement. He has also written on the shifting of life course risks from employers and the state to workers and households and the growing role of financial markets in managing those risks. Previously, he was MBA Program Coordinator at the University of Wollongong. Mike holds a PhD in economics and has taught at universities in Australia and Europe.

Sally Wright. BBus, MIR&HRM
Senior Research Analyst Workplace Research Centre (WRC), University of Sydney

In 2009, Sally joined the WRC ‘Australia at Work’ project. For five years previously, she was a National Industrial Officer for the Finance Sector Union. She has also worked in IR, employment and VET in the NSW public sector, and as a consultant to NSW MERSITAB, NSW TAFE Flexible Delivery Framework, UNESCO and UNESCAP. Sally’s research interests include union organising, pay equity, executive remuneration, the federal system of workplace relations, organisational change and corporate social responsibility.

No learning outcomes have been developed for the chapters considered introductory or underpinning knowledge (that is chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 14, 15.)