Dual Labor Market

What Is the Dual Labor Market?

The dual labor market is a concept that splits the American economy into two distinct categories: the primary sector and secondary sector.

In the primary sector, the workers typically have:

  • Good jobs
  • Solid and well-defined job roles
  • Job security
  • The potential for promotions
  • Safe and clean working conditions

On the other hand, we have the secondary sector, in which workers typically have:

  • Low-status jobs
  • Low to minimum wage pay
  • Poor working conditions
  • Limited access to safe and clean working conditions
  • Fewer opportunity for promotion

What Does it Look Like in Today’s Economy?

In the 1970s, economists Peter Doeringer and Michale Piore noted that the primary sector consisted primarily of well-educated, blue-collar men, and that the secondary sector consisted mainly of migrant workers and women – often with less education.

Although the US has come a long way since the 1970s, not that much has changed as far as the dual labor market is concerned. The primary sector still consists of well educated, blue-collar men, and the secondary sector is still typically made up of less educated women and migrant workers.

What Is the Difference Between Primary and Secondary Labor Markets?

There are several differences between these two sectors. Some of these include (but are not limited to):

  • The primary sector tends to be unionized, whereas the secondary sector is not.
  • Native residents typically fill primary sector jobs, whereas the secondary sector is often filled by ethnic minorities, those from a disadvantaged background, and migrants.
  • Primary sector jobs tend to have lower turnover due to the nature of the work and job security. On the other hand, secondary sector jobs experience a much higher turnover due to workers having less knowledge, skills, and education than those in the primary sector.


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