Technology and the Demand for Skills
AbstractThe U.S. economy has undergone major structural changes since 1950. First, there has been a gradual shift of employment from goods-producing industries to service-providing industries. Second, since the 1970s at least, the availability of new information-based technologies has made possible substantial adjustments in operations and organizational re- structuring of firms. This has been accelerated, in part, by sharply increasing competition from imports. Evidence from industry level case studies indicate that this restructuring is likely to have important consequences for the level and composition of skills required in the U.S. workplace (see Adler, 1986, and Zuboff, 1988). The direction and extent of changes in skill levels over the longer run has, however, been more uncertain, with case studies often finding a deskilling of the content of production jobs and aggregate studies finding little change or at most a gradual upgrading in overall occupation mix (see Spenner, 1988, for a survey of this literature). These trends have considerable policy significance since they help determine education and training needs. One important result of this paper, for example, is that a growing mismatch has been occurring between skill requirements of the workplace and educational attainment of the workforce, with the latter increasing much more rapidly than the former.
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