The Isaac Industrial Relations Symposium

University House at the Woodward, Melbourne Law School Building, Level 10, 185 Pelham Street, Carlton 3053


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The Department of Management and Marketing

T: +61 3 8344 4481

The Quality of Jobs: Theoretical Reflections and a Practical Proposal

Speaker: Professor Paul Edwards, University of Birmingham UK

This symposium was developed jointly by the Department of Management and Marketing at the University of Melbourne, and Monash Business School, Monash University, to recognise and highlight the outstanding contribution to industrial relations by Professor Emeritus Joe Isaac AO, FASSA. He has long been one of Australia’s most distinguished scholars and practitioners in the broad field of workplace relations.

The quality of jobs has become a major interest in policy as well as academic debates. Much is now known about its characteristics, patterns, and determinants. But two issues now require attention. The first is the relationship between job quality and deeper sets of interests. Just what elements of a job do people value and why, and to what extent is a good job for one person a cost for another? These questions are discussed in relation to the idea of capabilities. The second issue is how job quality might be improved. Many possible levers have been identified but these tend to operate at the level of a whole country. Specifics at the level of the firm are less clear, and in particular the small firm, which accounts for a large proportion of private sector employment, has been neglected. Using the discussion of interests, different types of small firm are identified, leading to different priorities in relation to job quality and different resulting policy implications.

Paul Edwards is Professor of Employment Relations at the University of Birmingham, UK, where he has been since 2011. He was for many years at Warwick University where he was Director of the Industrial Relations Research Unit, and held positions as Associate Dean for Research, Undergraduate Programmes, and Academic Policy and Practice. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, and former editor-in-chief of Human Relations. Current research interests include the public engagement of a critical social science and employment relations in small and ethnic minority firms.

In honour of Professor Emeritus Joe Isaac AO, FASSA