a salary elite that has been increasingly isolated for thirty years

Two percent is the annual increase in the cost of the highest paid employees. For thirty years, salary segregation in the workplace has continued to increase, that is to say that the best paid employees are increasingly isolated from the rest of the company’s workforce. According to the latest statistics, in France, 36.5% of the colleagues around the highest paid employees have the same salary level as them, whereas they were only 27% in 1993. This isolation of the elite wage, which is widely shared around the world, has its source in deindustrialization.

This is the analysis of sociologist Olivier Godechot carried out on the basis ofextensive work carried out by an international team of social science researchers and on statistics from twelve countries (Canada, France, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Czech Republic, Hungary, South Korea and Japan) for the scientific mediation project “What do we know about work ? », from the Interdisciplinary Laboratory for the Evaluation of Public Policies (Liepp), distributed in collaboration with the Presses de Sciences Po on the Jobs channel from the Lemonde.fr website.

Social science researchers have thus measured the evolution of socioeconomic segregation at work over several years and in international comparison. Who works with whom, based on their salary level and location. It emerges that when industrial employment decreases, over the course of restructuring, the more the size of the establishment is reduced, the more the isolation of the best paid increases. Expressed in statistics, this gives: “A drop of one standardized unit in the size of the establishment increases our isolation indicator by 0.15 to 0.2 units”writes Olivier Godechot.

Employees in the top 10% – potentially supervisors – are concentrated in a limited number of establishments, moving further away each year from the working conditions and demands of the rest of the workforce. This isolation of elites produces a complete loss of information on the evolution of real work and the daily needs of employees and deconstructs social cohesion.

The sociologist names three responsible for this evolution: deindustrialization, restructuring and digitalization. “Layoff plans, outsourcing, the use of subcontracting, relocations also influence the isolation of the top 10%”, writes Olivier Godechot. With the “restructuring, companies primarily get rid of employees at the bottom of the salary hierarchy and tighten the gap between the best paid”. Those at the bottom of the hierarchy continue to work invisible to the top of the hierarchy, but from different establishments and through complex chains of subcontracting companies and outsourced providers.

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