More people than ever have moved into relatively well-paid managerial, professional or semi-professional type jobs over the past decade in Britain, with low-skill, low-paid jobs conversely growing at a slower rate, according to new research.
The study by The Work Foundation has found that, far from there having been a boom in low-paying, low-skilled service sector work since the mid 1990s, in fact low paying jobs have grown less significantly than "good jobs" at higher levels of the labour market.
Among men, managerial jobs have grown by more than 12 per cent, professional jobs by more than 8 per cent and associate professional jobs (such as nurses and computer technicians) by nearly 17 per cent between 1995 and 2005.
More striking still, it said, was the finding that the decade has seen more women move into managerial and professional work.
Among women, the number of managers grew by nearly 30 per cent, professionals by just over 15 per cent and associate professionals by more than half.
Ian Brinkley, director of the knowledge economy programme at the foundation and co-author of the report, said: "The idea that the decline of manufacturing has meant the end of decent jobs paying decent wages for vast numbers of people is clearly unfounded.
"Economic change is never painless. However, a more knowledge-intensive world of work, where people work with their heads more than their hands, appears from these findings to be a relatively benign development for workers," he added.
The idea, popular in the 1990s, that work and society were becoming more divided and that it would becoming ever harder for workers to break into the elite looks less harder to justify than ever, he argued.
"Instead, what seems to be happening is that, if anything, the world of work is upwardly mobile.
"Although there has been some polarisation among men, with the growth of shelf-stacking, van-driving type jobs alongside the lawyers, accountants, and management consultants, overall the knowledge economy does not seem to be creating a new class divide," he said.
"And among women in particular, there seems to have been a fairly smooth transition into higher skilled, higher paying work," added Brinkley.
The report also showed the impact of the spread of information technology on work.
Administrative and secretarial work, traditionally the preserve of women, had fallen sharply, while personal service jobs – jobs which are by their nature immune to computerisation and off-shoring – had risen.
And for men, process, plant and machine operative-type jobs had also fallen.