Labour Market Segmentation and Change: The Case of Female Workers in the Higher Education Sector in Saudi Arabia
Research indicates that female workers in the Middle East experience barriers in their labour market access and mobility. However, little is known about the impact of labour market modernization on the job and labour market experiences of this group of workers. This qualitative study was designed to explore, with a sample of female academics, the impact of labour market change on their jobs and working conditions. The rationale for this research emanates from the researcher’s desire to understand labour market change and the ways this change is impacting the job and labour market experiences of female workers. It was the researcher’s assumption that gaining a deep and holistic understanding of female workers’ job and labour market experiences would support the development of effective policy interventions that are attuned to the reality of female works in a changing segmented labour market and mitigate unintended negative consequences on their wellbeing. The purposefully selected sample was composed of 30 Saudi-national female academics who were drawn from different higher education institutions across Saudi Arabia. The primary data collection method was in-depth semi-structured interviews. The data was systematically coded and thematically analysed. Analysis and interpretation of findings were based on the literature review and answering the research three questions: (1) female workers’ mobility patterns and the labour market structure for female workers, (2) the ways institutional factors shape and impact academic jobs, and (3) psychosocial working conditions in academic jobs, their impact by labour market change, and implications for faculty wellbeing. This research found that female workers face a structural obstacle of limited job opportunity upon their entry to the labour market which forces them to compromise on the quality of their early career jobs. However, institutional change in the labour market is expanding their labour market opportunity. Second, public higher education institutions constitute internal labour markets where access to employment is controlled whereas private higher education institutions operate in an external competitive labour market where employment is subject to market factors. Third, the relationship the higher education institution has with state funding and the employment system followed in the employment of female academics differentiate compensation, employment stability, and employee training for this group of workers across the higher education labour market. Fourth, academic jobs are meaningful, include social support, and provide opportunity for development while at the same time lack job clarity in some areas, include restriction in job autonomy as well as time pressure. Nevertheless, academic jobs are considered good jobs by labour market standards and resourceful by organizational psychology standards and these characteristics combined render them supportive of faculty wellbeing. Recommendations are offered for future research, policy, and practice. Given the institutional complexity of the research context and acknowledging that context varies across cultures and economies, the research findings should be transferred to situations sharing key characteristics and the recommendations considered for their appropriateness for the situation of interest.
Labour market segmentation, Gender, Employee wellbeing