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We Can Work It Out: The Impact of Technological Change on the Demand for Low-Skill Workers

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  • Alan Manning

Abstract

There is little doubt that technology has had the most profound effect on altering the tasks that we humans do in our jobs. Economists have long speculated on how technical change affects both the absolute demand for labour as a whole and the relative demands for different types of labour. In recent years, the idea of skill-biased technical change has become the consensus view about the current impact of technology on labour demand, namely that technical change leads to an increase in the demand for skilled relative to unskilled labour painting a bleak future for the employment prospects of less-skilled workers. But, drawing on a recent paper by Autor, Levy and Murnane (2003) about the impact of technology on the demand for different types of skills, this paper argues that the demand in the least-skilled jobs may be growing. But, it is argued that employment of the less-skilled is increasingly dependent on physical proximity to the more-skilled and may also be vulnerable in the long-run to further technological developments. Copyright (c) Scottish Economic Society 2004.

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Article provided by Scottish Economic Society in its journal Scottish Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 51 (2004)
Issue (Month): 5 (November)
Pages: 581-608

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Handle: RePEc:bla:scotjp:v:51:y:2004:i:5:p:581-608

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  1. Enrico Moretti, 2002. "Human Capital Spillovers in Manufacturing: Evidence from Plant-Level Production Functions," Working Papers, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau 02-27, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. Acemoglu, Daron, 2002. "Directed Technical Change," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(4), pages 781-809, October.
  3. Ciccone, Antonio & Peri, Giovanni, 2002. "Identifying Human Capital Externalities: Theory with an Application to US Cities," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 3350, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2001. "The Skill Content of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," NBER Working Papers 8337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Leontief, Wassily & Duchin, Faye, 1986. "The Future Impact of Automation on Workers," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, number 9780195036237, October.
  6. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," NBER Working Papers 8769, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Teulings, Coen & Koopmanschap, Marc, 1989. "An econometric model of crowding out of lower education levels," European Economic Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 33(8), pages 1653-1664, October.
  8. David Card & Thomas Lemieux, 2000. "Can Falling Supply Explain the Rising Return to College for Younger Men? A Cohort-Based Analysis," NBER Working Papers 7655, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Sen, Amartya, 1983. "Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, number 9780198284635, October.
  10. Nickell, S. & Komg, P., 1989. "Technical Progress And Jobs," Papers, London School of Economics - Centre for Labour Economics 366, London School of Economics - Centre for Labour Economics.
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