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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan Manning, 2004. "We Can Work It Out: The Impact of Technological Change on the Demand for Low-Skill Workers," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 51(5), pages 581-608, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:scotjp:v:51:y:2004:i:5:p:581-608
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. A. Gautier, Pieter & J. van den Berg, Gerard & C. van Ours, Jan & Ridder, Geert, 2002. "Worker turnover at the firm level and crowding out of lower educated workers," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(3), pages 523-538, March.
    2. Teulings, Coen & Koopmanschap, Marc, 1989. "An econometric model of crowding out of lower education levels," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(8), pages 1653-1664, October.
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    7. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
    8. Nickell, S. & Komg, P., 1989. "Technical Progress And Jobs," Papers 366, London School of Economics - Centre for Labour Economics.
    9. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 733-783, October.
    10. Antonio Ciccone & Giovanni Peri, 2002. "Indentifying human capital externalities: Theory with an application to US cities," Economics Working Papers 611, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Jul 2005.
    11. Enrico Moretti, 2002. "Human Capital Spillovers in Manufacturing: Evidence from Plant-Level Production Functions," NBER Working Papers 9316, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure

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