Professionalization and Market Closure: The Case of Plumbing in India

Professionalization and Market Closure: The Case of Plumbing in India

Industrial and Labor Relations Review. July
2013, Vol. 66, Issue 4, Pages 902-932

Professionalization has long been understood as a process of establishing market closure and monopoly control over work; however, in this article the author presents a case in which professionalization erodes rather than establishes occupational closure. She demonstrates how the Indian Plumbing Association (IPA), a newly formed organization of internationally trained plumbing contractors and consultants, has used the rhetoric and structures of professionalization to threaten pre-existing ethnicity-based closure enjoyed by traditional plumbers from the eastern state of Orissa. By employing a discourse of professionalism and by instituting codes, training, and certification programs, professionalization in this case has undermined Orissan plumbers by changing the basis of plumbing knowledge and opening entry to outsiders. The author concludes by suggesting that professionalization is a modern trope that does not necessarily imply monopoly benefits and higher job quality for all the members of a given occupational group.